BY JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Quietly, in the shadow of his teammate, Scott Dixon has put together one of the most impressive resumes in IndyCar.
He’s tied with Rick Mears for 10th on the career victory list, and another three wins would push him past Dario Franchitti and Sebastien Bourdais as the winningest active driver in the series.
Dixon has two titles, an Indianapolis 500 win and hasn’t finished lower than third in the standings since 2006.
Yet, it’s Franchitti, with his four titles and three Indy 500 wins, who gets most of the attention.
“He’s famous. He’s got great hair, great teeth, newly single. He’s a stud,” Dixon joked.
Dixon heads into Sunday’s race at Long Beach ranked second in the IndyCar standings after two masterful drives that didn’t go unnoticed.
He drove from 20th to fifth in the season opener at St. Pete, then had his fourth consecutive runner-up finish at Barber 2 weeks ago.
That’s the attention that Dixon wants.
“I prefer to do the talking on the track,” he said. “I don’t talk [crap] about other people, or worry about what else is going on. I’m not a gunslinger, not a showboater.”
Franchitti, teammates with Dixon since 2009, doesn’t think his fame overshadows his teammate.
Instead, it’s Dixon’s personality to stay under the radar and let his results speak for him.
“He’s very, very good. Fiercely competitive,” Franchitti said. “But he definitely likes to be quiet and low-key. He likes that side of things. But I think people who really pay attention know what Dixie is capable of.”
What’s he’s capable of is earning a spot as one of the greatest drivers in series history.
Dixon has won multiple races in all but two of his 10 IndyCar seasons, and at 7 years younger than Franchitti, he’s got a ton of racing ahead of him.
He signed a contract extension last summer with Chip Ganassi Racing, where he’s driven since 2002 and is the longest tenured driver in Ganassi history. That’s a lifetime with a volatile owner who can quickly tire of drivers.
Dixon can’t envision driving anything besides his Target red No. 9 car.
“I think my relationship with Chip has evolved – it started out as a school principal and bad student for a little while,” Dixon said. “But I respect him a lot in the fact that he loves to race. That’s the biggest thing for me. It’s why I enjoy being with the team so much, everyone has the same idea about winning, and to me, he’s mellowed out a lot over the last 5 years.
“But it’s really like a family. I’ve known most of the people on the team longer than some of my best friends. It’s an easy scenario and to me if you are at a team that wants to do that, wants to win, I don’t want to go anywhere else. I want this to be a career team.”
When asked earlier this year why the relationship with Dixon works so well, Ganassi joked “because he doesn’t call me, and I don’t call him.”
The reality, team manager Mike Hull said, is that the New Zealand driver is very similar to the Pittsburgh-bred team owner.
“His demeanor is a lot like Chip in a lot of ways. He’s very much to the point. He’s able to come right at us with the good things and the bad things, and then move on,” Hull said.
“The culture and personality of our team is quite that way, so he’s blended quite well. He is very, very unselfish. He is not afraid to have everything right up here on top of the table with his teammates or with the engineer for the other driver or with the guys who work on the car. It doesn’t matter to him. Because he feels his actions on the race track will benefit because it will be valued back to him from his teammates.”
Never was that more apparent than last year when he and Franchitti dominated the Indianapolis 500.
Dixon led 53 laps and Franchitti led 23 – including the final one. He wound up second to Franchitti – same result as 2007 – and appeared crestfallen as he climbed from his car. But he was at Franchitti’s victory party later that night, supporting his friend on his own bitter day.
“I don’t know if he’ll give you a true answer to that, but I knew it hurt him. It would have hurt me, too,” Franchitti said. “He drove a very, very good race. It was between the two of us who was going to get it done, and it was just circumstance as much as anything. I took one strategy to be in front in case there was a yellow and he took another. That’s what it came down to.”
Dixon shrugged this week when asked about the 500.
“Indy sucks unless you win. So much goes into it and coming with a team that’s always competitive – that’s what you go there for, to win. Second is great but nobody really cares,” he said. “But I think if I can’t win, the next best person is my teammate. Well, if they are a nice teammate. And Dario kind of falls into that category.”
Then Dixon explained all the reasons why Franchitti’s win was special, noting that he did it while driving a special No. 50 car to commemorate Target’s 50th anniversary.
“It was a perfect scenario, a 1-2 finish, a good deal,” Dixon said. “I was happy about a lot of things, except maybe the placings being reversed.”
It didn’t stick with Dixon long, though. He went into Detroit the next week and picked up the first of his two wins last year.
“I think once you go through your career, you understand some things go your way and some things do not,”Dixon said. “Sometimes you win races or championships you weren’t meant to win. It’s racing. You just go with it.”