Dixon: Winter meetings ‘like going back to school’

Scott Dixon brought a surprise home Jan. 14, which he says will fit nicely in his office next to the BorgWarner Championship Driver’s Trophy for winning the 2008 Indianapolis 500.

Dixon, who earned his third IndyCar Series championship last Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway, was presented a miniature replica of Astor Cup during an event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum featuring the four current IndyCar Series drivers to win the Indianapolis 500.

The trophy was commissioned by Vincent Astor, son of industrialist John Jacob Astor, to be awarded to the winner of the Astor Cup Challenge — a 350-mile race in 1915 on a 2-mile board track at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y. In 2011, INDYCAR, paying tribute to the heritage of North American open-wheel racing, initiated presenting the Astor Cup to the IndyCar Series champion.

The names of all Indy car champions from 1909 (George Robertson; American Automobile Association) to the present are laser-etched into the two black granite bases of the sterling silver trophy. The miniature versions — one each for the driver and winning team owner — are keepsakes.

“Nice trophy; I hope to get one this year,” said three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who was the 2013 championship runner-up.

Dixon and Castoneves were joined by reigning Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan and 2000 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who will join Team Penske for the 18-race season that commences with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 30. The 98th Indianapolis 500 is May 25.

Juan Pablo Montoya“It’s pretty exciting (though) I really haven’t thought about it too much,” Montoya said. “If you think about it, I’m 1-for-1 here and it would be cool to be 2-for-2.”

Earlier in the day, the drivers participated in the first of the two-day winter meetings with INDYCAR officials. Competition, rules and safety upgrades were among the items discussed.

“It is like coming back to school,” Castroneves said. “We’ve had a long offseason and now it’s like, ‘OK, we need to get back in the seat and start driving and racing again.’ The good news is we’re all working together to enhance the sport, especially for the fans. But we want to make the racing fair and better for everyone.

“We spent a lot of time and had a lot of questions and trying to brainstorm with everyone in the same room. Even though everyone didn’t agree all the time, we’re trying to make it better and special.”

Added Montoya, who attended his first round of meetings under INDYCAR sanction: “We all have opinions. We all have our own way of looking at things. To get everybody to agree with everything is hard. I think it’s really good of INDYCAR to care what we think. We’re working together. How can we make things better for everybody for the series? I think INDYCAR is really doing a good job with that.”

The second day will focus on initiatives to grow the sport.

“We cannot wait for St. Petersburg to kick off the 2014 IndyCar Series season and we really got the juices flowing today with the drivers all coming together,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman and Co., the parent of INDYCAR. “When you get that much competitive energy and experience in a room, I didn’t know what to expect. These guys dug in and were very productive. It was a very robust first day.

“We are eager to get on with growing IndyCar racing in 2014.”

Dixon: Winter meetings ‘like going back to school’

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