PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One of motor racing’s biggest events drops the green flag Sunday afternoon. IndyCar drivers will approach speeds of 240 miles per hour as they burn around the track during the Indianapolis 500.
Scott Dixon is a past champion, having taken the checkered flag in 2008 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The first time he saw the track on race day was six years prior.
“I had been there when it was empty before, but to actually go there on race day, it was actually mind-boggling just to see the atmosphere, the sounds, the feel,” says Dixon. “That amount of people in one spot is insane.”
During his first visit, he was a guest of IndyCar team owner and Fox Chapel resident Chip Ganassi, the man who he now races for each week.
“I stood in the Turn 2 suites and actually looked down on the cars and how fast they are. I was like, ‘Alright, this is not good for me to watch right now because it looks fast and it looks dangerous,'” Dixon said.
He paused a moment, then continued, “But when you’re in the car, and you’re driving it, and you have the sense of competition, and you’re trying to push the boundaries, you’re not thinking about those things.”
The New Zealander is a five-time IndyCar series champ, but only has one Indy 500 title to his credit. His team is in its second season of a sponsorship deal with Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank. While he is a driver, he also understands and appreciates the business side of racing.
“Gone are the days of just putting a sticker on the car. Those don’t exist. I think it’s the partnerships now. It’s the business,” he said.
As part of that partnership, Dixon makes lots of appearances for PNC Bank — including visits to individual bank branches.
“PNC has done a fantastic job on their end in enabling us to work harder and get the word out, but also doing things that are great for the local community,” Dixon said.
Now in his 18th season of racing for Ganassi, he fully understands that even if he can’t win Sunday’s race, he will do everything in his power to finish as close to the front as possible and push for another season-long title.
“I’ve won five championships. Chip’s won 13 IndyCar championships, which is a crazy number by any standard,” he said. “Those days, you know, you have got to have them and those are the ones that make championships.”
And that is what makes Dixon one of the best IndyCar drivers in the business.