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Those are the words Scott Dixon used to describe the IndyCar race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway last year. TMS hosted IndyCar’s season-opening race in June as the open-wheel series delayed its start due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was the first sporting event held in the state of Texas, but closed to fans. Approximately 900 people total were on the grounds for the race. It was a one-day, made-for-TV event with practice, qualifying and the race taking place on the same day.
“It was very strange,” Dixon said during a recent telephone interview with the Star-Telegram. “Whether it was when you ate to how many people were allowed in the truck to everybody wearing masks to even how we traveled there by taking two planes for spacing … it was strange. But there was also the emphasis on making sure we did it right. We didn’t want to fall into a trap with a lot of COVID cases and not be able to continue on with the season.”
The only thing that wasn’t strange that day was Dixon taking the checkered flag in the Genesys 300. Dixon dominated, leading 157 of the 200 laps, to win for the fourth time at TMS. The victory tied him with Helio Castroneves for most all-time open-wheel wins in TMS history. Dixon also has Texas victories in 2008, 2015 and 2018.
“The strangest part was definitely victory circle,” said Dixon, the longtime driver of the No. 9 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. “We were still able to celebrate a win and you had the crazy fire and the guns and the hat and all of that kind of stuff, but it was a whole lot different looking out to empty stands.
“That was the real realism of it. It really struck home the enormity of the problem going on around us. Once you put the helmet on and once you get racing, those things kind of change. But two really important things with our sport, that’s first our fans and secondly our sponsors. Without having the big draw of the fans, it was definitely very bizarre.”
Things are slowly trending back to normal these days.
Dixon and IndyCar are scheduled to start the season with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday. They travel to Florida for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 25 before coming to Texas for a doubleheader event May 1-2.
When the racing series returns to Texas, they will be greeted by fans.
“As usual, everybody is excited to get the season going and definitely looking forward to the Texas races,” Dixon said. “There’s a lot of importance on Texas this year because it’s the doubleheader with so many points on the line. But who doesn’t love going to Texas? Who doesn’t love winning at Texas? We’re very excited to get back there.”
Maybe Dixon will be chasing history when he returns. He is this generation’s most accomplished driver, one of the best in the history of the sport.
Dixon not only won his sixth championship last year, but also joined the exclusive 50-win club. Only Mario Andretti (52 wins) and A.J. Foyt (67 wins) have won that many races in their careers.
Dixon sits right at No. 50, two away from tying Andretti. He’d love to have an opportunity to tie, or pass, him at TMS.
“I love doing what I do. Did I ever think I’d be in this position? Not really,” Dixon said. “I dreamed big and wanted to be the best at what I do. A.J. is probably safe on his victories, but it’d be great to try and tie him for seven career championships. There’s always goals and steps and things to try to surpass.
“It doesn’t come easy, though, so it’s going to take a lot of hard work.”