Senior staff writer
Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon and veteran driver Graham Rahal wasted no time looking at the calendar last week.
Rahal, son of 1986 500 winner Bobby Rahal, said, “It’s going to be May soon enough.”
Dixon remarked, “It’s cool to know that the month of May is right around the corner.”
The two drivers were among several high-speed Honda chauffeurs during tests March 24 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The test laps were extremely valuable for the Rahal and Chip Ganassi teams.
Rahal, 28, is the lone driver for a team co-owned by his father and Hoosier legend David Letterman, so they don’t have the benefits of a multiple-car team. Taking small steps, Rahal and Honda hope to close the gap on rival Chevrolet on road courses and hopefully in the 101st Indianapolis 500 on May 28.
“Honda’s done a really good job with the horsepower,” the second-generation racer said. “We’re looking good on the road courses, but the aero kit is still deficient. The aero kit worked pretty good here last year.”
Rahal’s best finishes at Indy were third in 2011 with team owner Chip Ganassi and fifth in 2015 with his current team.
He is one of IndyCar’s high profile drivers and is married to NHRA drag racer Courtney Force, daughter of NHRA legend John Force.
Rahal hopes to accomplish what Dixon has already done. Dixon won the 500 in 2008 and has 10 top 10 finishes.
Ganassi was with Toyota (2003-2005), Honda (2006-2012) and Chevrolet (2013-2016). Dixon won the 500 and two of his four Verizon IndyCar championships with Ganassi and Honda.
Team Ganassi also features 2013 500 winner Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Max Chilton. Dixon finished third recently in the Verizon IndyCar Series opener at St. Petersburg, Fla. The next race is April 9 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif.
“It’s a big change, going from one manufacturer.” Dixon understated. “We’re trying to validate on the track what the engineers have been working on for six months. They have been busy testing, tunnel testing, and trying a lot of different things.”
Dixon continues to be enthusiastic about the Indianapolis 500.
“When you’re a kid, you have dreams and aspirations and places you want to get to,” Dixon, 36, recalled while standing in front of Gasoline Alley. “To actually get here and run for the first time (2003) was definitely eye opening.”
Dixon of New Zealand lives in Indianapolis with wife Emma and their two girls. He is a two-time New Zealand Sportsman of the Year.
He is eager to compete in his 15th Indianapolis 500.
“The fire is still strong,” said Dixon. “To get everything right in that three and one-half hour period I almost impossible. The worst place to finish here is runner-up and we’ve done that.
“It (Race Day) has a funny way about it. It can be your day for 99 percent of it and then it can be taken away from you very quickly. A lot of us think that it’s a she and that she picks the winners. I definitely need to get on the good side of her again.”
Even with only one win in 14 tries at the famed Speedway, Dixon still contends, “This place doesn’t owe me a thing. I love coming here.”
And Indy loves having champions like Dixon.