TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
PRE-SEASON MEDIA DAY
FEBRUARY 18, 2014
An interview with:
SCOTT DIXON, NO. 9 TARGET CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed winning the 2013 championship, preparations for the 2014 season, Tony Kanaan joining the organization, Dario’s new role and other topics. Full transcript:
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by Scott Dixon.
Scott, the first question for everyone, what do you have to do to repeat as champion this year for the fourth time?
SCOTT DIXON: Beat everybody else.
Yeah, you know, stay with the same team, same pretty much combination on my car. There’s been a few changes with the 10 car. But big change obviously being engine manufacturer, then T.K. going into the 10, welcoming Briscoe back to the team as well in the No. 8. Lots of changes.
We haven’t done a lot of testing, maybe two or three days so far this year. Gone pretty smoothly. Confident in the season.
Personally and for the team, the thing on the 9 car side we need to do a little bit better is start the season off a little bit stronger. Looking for strong results straightaway in St. Pete. Long Beach has been definitely not a great track for results for us in recent history.
I think if we can start strong and carry the momentum through from last year, that will be goal number one.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Scott.
Q. Are you behind in the number of test days you’ve had compared to other people?
SCOTT DIXON: I think some teams like KV have done quite a few, six or seven days so far. We’ve done three. Juan obviously got gifted for tests. He’s on eight or nine so far.
Yeah, there’s other teams. For us we save a fair few for the middle of the season. It’s easy to get down the road in conditions that can be 40 degrees cooler than when you actually race.
We’ve just canceled the Barber test we had set for the 4th of March. We want to make sure we keep developing in the areas we need to from the off-season, then work on the car for setups during the hotter months.
Q. How is the communication different with T.K. than Dario?
SCOTT DIXON: Very different. Some is in Portuguese and then broken English (laughter).
But, no, you know, for him there’s lots of change. New team members, new engineer, totally different car setup. The one constant for him was luckily the engine package with Chevrolet.
Dario and I were very similar I think in debriefing and the way that we approached the weekend. Hard to tell with T.K. yet because we haven’t worked together that much. But obviously he’s a big personality. Fun to have him at the team. Just to see how we work on car setups is yet to be determined.
But he’s been quick at the first few tests. It’s nice to have a different driver to look at different areas where he may be quick and areas that the team and myself and the other drivers can definitely work on.
Q. Sounds like Dario can be a big benefit to the team in whatever role. You lose a contemporary, a guy who is actually pushing you.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it is a big loss, not just for myself, but I think for the team and also for the series.
The positive side is that he’s still going to be involved with the team. He’s obviously very talented. He’s won a lot races, achieved many things. But when it comes down to the engineering side of it, his approach to a race weekend, I think it’s something that will be missed a little bit. Hopefully with his involvement we can keep that going.
As a friend, it’s going to be great to have him around. He’ll be sorely missed on the track. We’ll have to see how big that change is as we get through the year with different drivers and different combinations.
Q. The 9 and the 10 are very formidable, difficult to beat. Does the 9 suffer with Dario not in the 10?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I don’t think so. There’s many different ways to look at it. I think T.K. is a great driver. He’s won a championship. He’s won many races. He may be stronger in other areas and maybe a little weaker in others. I think with the team combination, drivers and engineering, we can try to bring that back together and make it a strong 1-2 punch.
I think you will lose some stuff in the respect of losing Dario, but you’re also gaining different areas, as well.
Q. Without Dario in the 10 with his hair and teeth, does Scott Dixon finally get to stand alone and the world see the greatness of Scott Dixon?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I don’t know. We’ve all still got Chip at the team, too. T.K. definitely doesn’t have the Dario looks. We can talk about his big nose, I guess (laughter).
But, you know, I won’t actually go down that road. Dario will still be with the team and taking some of that limelight. I’m perfectly fine with that. Gives him more recreational time away from the track. I’m sure he’ll be sucking that up.
Q. Your championship last year, are you feeling like you are cementing your place, climbing up the ladder? Are you carving out your spot in the open-wheel ranks as one of the greatest drivers? Does it even matter to you?
SCOTT DIXON: I love my job. I love racing. I think that’s what matters to me. If you can build on those, that’s fantastic. I’m not a huge sort of stats guy. I think it’s something you can reflect on when you do leave the sport.
It’s important to me. It’s important to win. It’s important to win championships and Indy 500s, fly the flag obviously for the team. But it’s not something that I wake up thinking about.
I wake up thinking about that race day and trying to win that race day. I’m not looking for a goal of a certain amount of wins or championships. I’ve been very lucky with the success we have had as a team. I guess for us, what we try to do is build on that.
Q. Are you surprised to see Juan struggling, not getting up to speed, by his own assessment? It wasn’t like riding a bike. He doesn’t think he’s going to win St. Pete, per se.
SCOTT DIXON: Are you getting unofficial times from somewhere (laughter)?
It’s hard to comment on. You don’t really know what teams are testing. There’s different specs of engines.
Juan I think we all know is a huge talent, and he’s won in everything he’s raced in, many different formulas. It’s a big change, for sure, coming from mostly oval racing, such a big car. It’s a different car and the mindsets you get into.
But I think with the team and drivers he’s with, it will come along quickly. It’s just when it’s going to happen, whether it’s right out of the box or a few races. He’ll definitely be challenging for wins throughout the season.
Q. You and Dario may have been equals, but now you may be considered the team leader. How do you feel about that?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, you know, I think it’s hard to sort of answer that. There’s never been sort of ones and twos. Dario was definitely looked up to because he was someone that had been in the sport for a while and been very successful.
He definitely pushed me. I think we pushed each other, as well.
You know, I’m not real interested in who is a one or a two or who is leading the team. I
think we do it as a team effort. I think each driver on the team is like a quarterback to their own group of guys, and then Chip is the leader of the pack, I guess.
I don’t think anything will really change that.
Q. Being a teammate with Charlie, you have a firsthand look of what he deals with with his diabetes. What impresses you most about that?
SCOTT DIXON: I guess it’s kind of flying under the radar part when he’s involved with the team. It’s only at lunchtime that you see him break out a needle. He prepares himself so well with his dietary needs or training. He does a first class job on that sort of thing.
He’s done a great job in the last year. Even the tests we’ve had in the pre-season so far, he’s definitely upping his game.
When he first started, some people might have written him off. But he’s a smart guy. If he can’t do it, he’ll look and try to achieve it. For him to get a win at a tough road course like Mid-Ohio was huge for him and the team. He’s getting stronger and stronger each year.
Q. The St. Pete track has been a thorn in your side with the second-place finishes. If you could pick one thing, what would get you to the top there?
SCOTT DIXON: I think qualifying a little bit better. We’ve struggled. The last couple years we’ve struggled out of pre-season development, kind of gone down the long road. Last year was a big showing of that, obviously. I think we qualified 20th or something. To come back with a fifth place was definitely a big race for us.
But I think qualifying. I think it goes back to the pre-season testing. We have to be careful of what roads we go down and what works at a Sebring when it’s 40 degrees cooler to what it is when you actually get to the first race.
For me it’s preparing a little bit better, maybe not veering off as much as we did last year, try to have a clean race. In the early years we definitely had a few podiums. We’ve had speed there in the past and I’ve made my own mistakes, even leading the race.
If we just sort of go in, not put too much pressure on it, start the season strong, we can definitely do that.
Q. You struggled early last year, then where you ended it, where does it rank among your accomplishments in the sport?
SCOTT DIXON: I think the comeback for us as a team was huge. The three in a row with Pocono and Toronto was the start of the swing. The strength that the team had throughout the remainder of the season, with the exception of some of the big ovals where we didn’t have the speed. All the road and street courses, we were qualifying in the top three or four every race. For me, I think that was one of the biggest achievements was to keep strong.
I think that’s where this team is really good. Even when Dario’s championships in the past, they haven’t led a whole lot of the season. When it’s counted, they’ve pulled it out or been able to stay more consistent than some of the others.
For me each championship is so different because of the outside obstacles that you have. I think as sort of a pure enjoyment after the year, this one was probably my pick for the favorite.
Q. Is it official now that your number is the 9 and not the 1?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think so. I haven’t seen a car with a 1 on it. That’s not up to me, that’s up to Chip. We could arrive at St. Pete and it could be a 1.
Q. Is it your opinion that you don’t want the 1 because of what happened a couple years ago?
SCOTT DIXON: It’s not a number. It’s a stigma, just a number on the car. I think for us it’s more the icon of the No. 9 and being a Target car, much similar to how the people recognize the cars in NASCAR. That’s becoming more apparent in IndyCar, as well.
The 9 has been good. It’s a team number. If they picked the 1, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.
Q. The Daytona 500 is this weekend. With Chip’s NASCAR program, has he ever asked you about that?
SCOTT DIXON: We’ve flirted with the idea of having a test. Last year I was supposed to do a test in New Smyrna. I only drove Jamie’s car for a swap thing we did at Barber. Talladega, wasn’t much fun driving around by myself. Jamie had a lot of fun at Barber in the IndyCar.
I would love to have a go at a short track or road course. We have to look at schedules. I think even if the Nationwide side, there’s some races that don’t clash with Mid-Ohio or Road America. I just want to have a go first and see what it’s like.
Those guys are very good at what they do, very competitive series. I think it would be a lot of fun to have a go maybe in a Nationwide race. It’s not something we talk about a lot. Sort of a once-a-year thing.
Q. So those sort of races would have to happen before the 500 before you go that route?
SCOTT DIXON: I don’t see the 500 in my near future. That’s for sure.
Q. Carlos was asked about pranks at Andretti. Now that T.K. and Dario are back together, are you worried about anything?
SCOTT DIXON: I don’t know how that’s going to go. It’s a good question. I could see it probably starting with me and Dario on T.K. we’ll have to see. There’s some entertaining things that will happen with truck drivers. I’m sure it will kickoff. I’m sure T.K. will be the instigator of most of them.
THE MODERATOR: With 33 wins, Scott is the active leader in wins. Just ahead of him is Al Unser, Jr. and Bobby Unser.
Q. You had to do a heavy load at the Rolex. How did you think Larson did overall?
SCOTT DIXON: The second stint I didn’t really see. I saw the first one. I was just going to bed. There was a problem with the pit speed limiter. When the car actually ran out of fuel, it wasn’t actually his fault. When one of those things happens, it tumbles into other things.
The problem is that it’s a very tough race for anybody. Even if it was me and I’d never done the 24 before, it’s a tough race to go from a race like a Cup car, not have any electronics, understand how things work. It was maybe his fifth road course race ever, we were going into a gun fight with a knife.
It was stacked against him, but for next year it’s going to help him with the learning curve. He’ll be not much better prepared but understand things better than before.
He did a hell of a job. I think the second stint went fairly well. The first one went fine. You’re getting in at night, cold. He was trying to be a little bit cautious. But he did a good job.
Q. Every time I looked up you were driving. Is that exhausting?
SCOTT DIXON: It’s fun. The cars are getting a little easier to drive because they’ve taken the shifter out of it. It’s paddles. Physically it’s not as demanding as what it used to be.
No, when I’m at a racetrack, I think you should be in the car. I’m always sort of the guy that’s pushing to have three guys for the 24 because you’re in the car more often. You might as well race if you’re there.
Q. Are you going to Sebring?
SCOTT DIXON: I’m going to the test this Friday. I think that’s probably going to happen. I hope so.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you,
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you.