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Bruce Martin

MARTIN: Mario Andretti On Scott Dixon

Bruce Martin Mug
Bruce Martin

INDIANAPOLIS — Winning the first three races this season has set Scott Dixon on a path toward a sixth NTT IndyCar Series championship.

The three consecutive victories to open the COVID-19-delayed schedule gave Dixon 49 IndyCar triumphs. With those victories, Dixon closed to within three wins of Mario Andretti (52) for second on the list of all-time series winners. A.J. Foyt is the leader with 67 victories.

Andretti epitomized the speed, glamour and danger of Indy car racing from the 1960s through the mid-1990s.

SPEED SPORT asked Andretti if someone was going to challenge his record — someone who represents the sport well, has won in other forms of racing and is a flat-out badass racer — would Scott Dixon be the perfect guy to challenge his 52 IndyCar victories?

“I’ve said it before, they always say records are made to be broken,” Andretti said. “I’m not surprised at the career that Scott Dixon has had and the consistency, the stability he has had throughout his career with the same team and the way he has continuously performed. He has gotten better and better. A lot of these young guns cannot stop him.

“Somebody that is that good and contributes so much to the IndyCar Series, it’s an honor.

“Naturally, you would like to keep the record. If it is going to be broken by someone, it might as well be someone who is as potent as he is. He is a real dude. God bless him, is all I can say.”

Andretti and Dixon share many similarities, including their success behind the wheel and an incredible strength of character.

“We each have our own personality,” Andretti said. “What I like about Scott is the guy is really solid all the way around. As a man, and as a friend, he has always been great. There has never been an issue of any kind. He is always nice. The way he is such a great family man, he has a beautiful family, wonderful wife and kids; it’s a perfect situation.

“He is a champion all the way around in my book.”

Andretti won four IndyCar championships, including three with USAC and one under the CART banner. According to Andretti, Dixon’s achievements hold up as equal to his.

“To me, when you look at the top level of Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, the champion in the IndyCar Series to me is the most complete champion because of the diversity of the series itself, the tracks they run,” Andretti said. “They are at Elkhart Lake one weekend and then at Iowa Speedway the next weekend, a short oval. The next week, somewhere else.

“Scott Dixon is as good and is feared everywhere. As a champion, you don’t have to look too far as far as comparisons. He is still, by today’s standards, the most versatile champion at the top level of our sport.

“And that’s a fact.”

When Dixon opened the season with three straight victories, Andretti was impressed.

“It’s shocking to the degree that you look at the competition he is up against,” Andretti said. “He caught everybody with their pants down. Even the guys that could have challenged him, had mistakes in the pits, not driver mistakes, but team mistakes. You can’t afford that.”

Andretti enjoys the comparison.

“It’s a compliment that you want to compare me to Scott Dixon in so many ways,” Andretti said. “Different times of course. A lot of it is happening because of the love of driving, the commitment and the mindset. I can see he has his goals and he knows how to go about accomplishing them. I’m not in his head, but I think he is loving every minute of it.

“He is young enough to put up some really big numbers in the future,” Andretti added. “It’s all good for our sport and that is the ultimate positive to me. He deserves to be recognized for all of these accomplishments in a big way.”

Dixon turned 40 on July 22, so does he still have time to reach Foyt’s mark of 67 victories?

“He certainly does, age wise, yes,” Andretti said. “He just turned 40. When I turned 40, I won 18 more Indy car races after I came out of Formula One.”

Dixon is honored, even humbled, to be mentioned with Foyt and Andretti as all-time greats of the sport.

“It’s amazing just to be in the same conversation as these people,” Dixon said. “I remember looking back and watching races of Mario, watching races when I first came to America in 1997, and watching races of AJ Foyt. They are legends of the sport.

“I just feel lucky to be doing what I’m doing, coming from a little country like New Zealand, and yes, we have a huge racing history and background, but it’s definitely changed over the last few decades. But yeah, I don’t know, man. I love the sport. I love racing. If we can keep winning — we’re in the business of winning, so you have to do that.

“It’s not just me, it’s the team behind us. It’s the partners like PNC Bank, it’s Chip, it’s Honda, it’s hundreds of people that make it possible. So I just feel very special to be a part of it.”

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