Much has been made of the youth movement scorching through the NTT IndyCar Series this season but team owner Chip Ganassi and his veteran ace Scott Dixon tried Friday to temper overheated expectations about the newcomers.
There have been three first-time winners (Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay) through the opening five races, with 21-year-old Colton Herta also grabbing a victory to add to his personal tally of four in his career. The only driver above the age of 24 to find victory lane this year was, at 40 years young, six-time series champion Dixon, who did so in Race 1 of the doubleheader round at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month.
Dixon aside, the average age of a race winner thus far is 21.75.
“Yeah, it makes me feel old,” Dixon admitted with a smile during a team media availability at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I don’t know. It’s part of evolution, right? There’s going to be a changing of the guard at some point. I think there’s been different segments through my career where you’ve seen some great talent come through, champions that we’ve seen with Josef (Newgarden, two-time series champion), for example. But definitely, it seems like there’s quite a rush at the moment, which is huge for the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s very important for the longevity.
“For the veterans, you probably don’t care to see it too much (but) I’ve really enjoyed it. People coming from all different parts of the world, and they’re all very different in their own way, but also very fast. We’ve already seen a lot of first-time winners.
“I think it’s great to see. That’s all I can say about it — it’s inevitable. You hope you can race and fight with them, which I think we’ve seen from the veterans already this season. We’ll see how this race goes.”
From the owner’s box, Ganassi — who was present with drivers Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Tony Kanaan and Palou — has a slightly different perspective.
“Like Scott said, there’s youth movements that come along. He’s right. But who did he mention as the ‘youth movement’ that came along? Newgarden. The fact of the matter is people come and go at the top levels of the sport. It’s not that often that a champion comes through like Newgarden, for instance. There’s a whole trail of broken dreams in the wake of Newgarden, OK?
“These young people have to realize to stay at the top level of motorsport in this world, sure, it’s certainly driving ability, but it’s a lot of other things, too. They need to understand that.
“Yeah, youth movements come along, but champions endure. That’s what Scott Dixon does. To hear him say that…. makes him seem old; he kind of flicks those things off his shoulder like a flea. C’mon. There’s not one indication of aging in Scott Dixon that I can see.”
Ganassi looked over at Ericsson and Palou for a moment, and then returned to his theme.
“For these young guys coming along, like Alex and Marcus, when you get to the top level of the sport, your career becomes an endurance,” he added. “You can’t be bothered by little week-to-week things along the way. You can’t get too down when things are bad, and you can’t get too high when they’re good. You have to endure. You have to pick your spots and take advantage of those opportunities. You have to brush off the missteps or the mistakes by yourself or the team. You just have to endure. That’s what makes champions.
“If these young people today want to be champions, it’s more than just coming out here and yukking it up with your teammates, going fast in practice. There’s more to it than that.”