Matured Dixon would relish second title more than the first
Scott Dixon won the IndyCar Series title in 2003 and he could win another this season. That's where the similarities end between the seasons of the now more mature -- and appreciative -- New Zealander, writes Bruce Martin.
DETROIT -- When Scott Dixon arrived in the IndyCar Series in 2003, he was not only young, but very aggressive.At the time, he began the season as the 22-year-old and was an extremely aggressive driver -- almost too aggressive.At Twin-Ring Motegi in Japan, he was racing furiously with Tony Kanaan before the two drivers slammed hard into the wall in Turn 2. Dixon was uninjured but Kanaan suffered a badly fractured arm in the crash and was airlifted to a hospital. Kanaan returned home the next day, seated in the front row of First Class on an ANA airline wearing a cast that looked as if it were made from an Erector set with an Indy Racing League physician at his side to tend to him during the 16-hour flight to Washington's Dulles Airport.Kanaan would not miss any races, but was still wounded when he qualified his car for the outside of the front row for the Indianapolis 500.Dixon turned 23 midway through the 2003 season and went on to win one of the tightest IndyCar Series points races in history, with five drivers eligible to win the title entering the season finale at Texas Motor Speedway.Today, Kanaan said he believes there are few drivers on the track that he trusts more than Dixon, who at 27 has developed into one of the smoothest, most consistent drivers in the series. "Scott and I had a big problem in 2003 and I think Scott now understands the mentality with these cars," Kanaan said. "When you come from road courses and race in Europe -- although he has been here for quite a bit, we all raced in Europe -- there is no mercy. People bang wheels no matter what and don't say anything. Scott had that kind of mentality."After the incident in Motegi with me, I respect him as a champion and I respect him as a driver and because of that we both earned a lot of respect for each other. Right now he's the guy I would run side-by-side any time at any racetrack. He gives you enough room; he will respect you. He understands the mentality."It's that calm demeanor and smooth racing style that has New Zealand's Dixon four points ahead of Scotland's Dario Franchitti entering Sunday's Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), the next-to-last race of the IndyCar Series season.Older -- but still young -- and certainly wiser, Dixon admits he's much different than he was in 2003.At that time, he was the "reluctant driver" in the IndyCar Series. He had risen through the ranks of the rival CART Series, winning the Dayton Indy Lights title in 2000 with six victories in 12 races for PacWest Racing.
Big Race Weekend
This race weekend is one of the biggest of the year, with every major series except for Fomula One on the track. Here's what to watch, all times Eastern.
1 p.m. Busch Series practice -- SPEED
2:30 p.m. Nextel Cup practice -- SPEED
6 p.m. Nextel Cup qualifying -- SPEED
11 p.m. Busch Series qualifying -- SPEED
2 p.m. NHRA qualifying -- ESPN2
5:30 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series -- SPEED
8 p.m. Nextel Cup practice -- SPEED
10 p.m. Busch Series race -- ESPN2
7 a.m. Champ Car race -- ESPN Classic
2 p.m. NHRA qualifying -- ESPN2
3:30 p.m. IndyCar Series race -- ABC
8 p.m. Nextel Cup race -- ESPN
7 p.m. NHRA finals -- ESPN2
-- Staff and wire reports
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