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Back 2019-07-01

Cycling Keeps IndyCar’s Scott Dixon Race Ready

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IndyCar legend Scott Dixon seeks speed on two weels, too. For years—as with many motorsport pros—he’s turned to road cycling to prepare his mind and body for the rigors of racing. We had the pleasure of dropping of his new Zipp-equipped bike at Chip Ganassi Racing headquarters in Indianapolis this week, and took time to chat with Scott about cycling. Below is an edited transcript:

How do you use cycling in your career as a race car driver?

It’s always been a compliment to the typical training that we do. With the [Chip Ganassi] team we do a lot of endurance racing, 24 hours of Le Mans, 24 hours at Daytona, 12 hour of Sebring. It became a bit of an addiction. You start riding on some of these group rides. You may have started with a lower group and then progress your way through. Then you’re riding with some pretty big hitters. It’s really fun and really helps me with my natural sport.

How does cycling help you with auto racing?

You can stylize it. You can have a lot of intense workouts, or you can have the three or four rides. Our longest (auto) race is probably the Indianapolis 500 at three or four hours, but with endurance racing you’ll be in the car for three, then out for six, then in for three.

During the summer months it’s big to be able to take the heat. For a lot of our races, it’s 90 to 100 degrees. It’s very humid. You’re losing up to 6 pounds of weight during the race. It definitely helps a lot just becoming comfortable with those conditions.

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What other physical training do you focus on?

A lot of plyometrics. Winter is mostly weights…. Circuits, high rep. A lot of it now has become reaction stuff, really high intensity training with reactions…. Anything to flood the mind. In our situation, we’re running at a very high tempo, especially in qualifying. You take a small break each time and then you’re back at it. You’re talking on the radio… You’re changing roll bars. You’re constantly having to think about the progression of the car.

How do you stay hydrated in an IndyCar race? It’s not as simple as grabbling a bottle off your bike.

Typically, I’ll try to drink my fluid within the first 10 laps because otherwise it becomes like hot tea. You try to drink it fairly quickly because you’re going to need it latter, but when you need it later it’s extremely hot.

What is drafting like in an IndyCar race compared with drafting on a bicycle?

When you’re in the draft, you’re saving energy in your body. In the Indy 500, you’re doing the same thing. Our strategy this year was to save fuel and eliminate one of the last two (pit) stops. Drafting is huge for passing. We’re picking up almost 5, 6, 7 miles per hour. It’s very drastic in an IndyCar.

How is the breakdown in what’s needed for success in IndyCar in terms of the importance of having the fastest car, the best driving skills, and the best strategy?

There are days where you have just plain speed. I’m sure that’s the same in cycling. There’s a lot of days, too, where maybe you don’t have the fastest car. Strategy is always key… especially with pits closed, cautions where you can’t pit, then comes the strategy of pitting early. Then you jump the whole field if the caution comes out. Ideally most of the time you want to go long, because the in and out lap times compliment going long a lot more.

Chip [Ganassi] always says there’s a winning strategy for each car in every race. It’s just trying to figure out what that is and how you’re going to execute it.

What are your thoughts about staying safe, in the race car or bike?

It’s keeping the big picture in mind. To finish first, first you must finish. That’s a big standard for our sport…. It’s being aware of your surroundings.

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About Scott

Age: 39

Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand

City of Residence: Indianapolis

Career Highlights:

- Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion (2003, 2008, 2013, 2015, 2018).

- 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner.

- Most wins of any active NTT IndyCar Series driver (45), which ranks third all-time behind A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti.

- 2019 will be his 18th season driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, the longest tenure for any driver in team history.

About Scott’s Bike

Frame: Trek

Wheels: Zipp 404 Firecrest Tubeless/Carbon Clincher Disc brake

Components: SRAM RED eTap AXS

Follow @ScottDixon9 on Instagram