CHARLOTTE, N.C. >> Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”
The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.
“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon said today in a telephone interview. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”
IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.
Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.
“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”
Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.
“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”
His main focus right now is Sunday’s race in Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, where Dixon goes in ranked sixth in the IndyCar standings through three events.
He is frustrated with his finishes — his season best was fourth at Phoenix — because he believes his Ganassi car has had the speed to finish higher. He twice had to go to the back of the field in the season-opener at St. Petersburg because of penalties but still finished sixth, and he was racing Sebastien Bourdais for second at Long Beach last weekend when he was caught on pit road under caution. He finished 11th.
“I’m most disappointed that we’ve left a lot on the table so far this season,” said Dixon. He added the downsizing of Ganassi from a four-car operation to a two-car team (with Ed Jones, who was third at Long Beach) has reduced the amount of data available to him.
Dixon said he has talked with Bourdais about the pass Bourdais made on him for second early in Sunday’s race at Long Beach. Bourdais used a big run to catch Dixon and pass him on the inside of Turn 1 and then slingshot past another car. It was one of the most spectacular moves in recent memory, but ruled illegal because Bourdais dipped below an out-of-bounds line.
Dixon said not crossing that line has been stressed in driver meetings and he was pleased series officials showed consistency in calling a penalty against Bourdais.
“It was beaten like a dead horse about this line, so it was a very prominent. A rule is a rule and it’s good to see that IndyCar actually set a standard,” Dixon said. “You’ve got to imagine it’s an imaginary wall. If the wall had been there, we all would have crashed. But Seb came from a long way back and I think that’s why it looks so dramatic. It looked fantastic and kudos for Sebastien, he did an amazing job, but there’s a lot of things that could have gone differently there.
“I get both sides of it, but a rule’s a rule, right?”