For a guy who feels right at home wheeling an Indy car around Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 230-plus mph, Scott Dixon felt out of his element Sunday night in downtown Indianapolis when he competed in the city qualifier for the hit NBC obstacle course challenge show, “American Ninja Warrior.”
Dixon was among dozens of eager competitors attempting to advance past the qualifying round to tonight’s city finals. The top 15 from tonight’s round advance to the national finals later this summer along with advancers from other city qualifiers.
How Dixon fared is being kept under wraps until the first Indianapolis episode airs, scheduled for Monday, June 18 at 8 p.m. ET. The 37-year-old four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion was excited to give the competition a try, but admitted it’s far from anything he is familiar with in his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“It’s something so far out of your wheelhouse that you don’t feel comfortable,” Dixon said. “I didn’t feel comfortable.”
Still, the driver with the fourth-most race wins in Indy car history (41) wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for anything.
“The experience was awesome,” Dixon said. “Even in the about week and a half lead-up, trying to train with some of the fellow ninjas, I guess – I’m not really a ninja – but the community is fun, I’ve been a fan of the show for many years.
“It’s definitely one of those things that, when you see it, you think, ‘Oh yeah, I can do that,’ and when you actually try to do it, it’s very tough.”
Dixon is known as a perfectionist in the race car. Every detail is accounted for. It was the same for the 37-year-old when it came to “American Ninja Warrior.”
“The hardest part for me is I’m a bit of a stickler. If I’m going to do something, I want to do it properly,” he said. “This is one of the times I didn’t really prepare for it, so I went in super nervous. You kind of know what to expect because you see people go through it, but the first time you get on the course to experience it is the time you go. It’s probably the most nervous I’ve been for anything, especially with a ton of friends and family here.”
In addition to his wife and daughters, Dixon’s cheering section included fellow INDYCAR drivers Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Pippa Mann and Kyle Kaiser. Kanaan is among the drivers – along with Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly – who are previous ANW competitors.
Normally, the sound of the engine and being engulfed in his helmet blocks out any unwanted distractions for Dixon. Not so on the obstacle course.
“Sometimes you can hear people yelling stuff and it breaks your concentration a little bit, but you’re still trying to enjoy the moment. That’s the biggest thing here is everybody’s been saying just make sure you enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it.”
That, Dixon did, adding, “I loved the experience.”
This season of “American Ninja Warrior” premieres Wednesday, May 30. Dixon and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series teams and drivers will be busy in Indianapolis until then.
Teams are testing at the IMS oval today through Wednesday. The fifth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend on the IMS road course runs May 11-12, with the race airing live at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, May 12 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Official practice for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil starts Tuesday, May 15, with race day set for Sunday, May 27 (11 a.m., ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).