On Monday morning New Zealand time, Scott Dixon won his sixth IndyCar title. At the age of 40, he now stands just one behind A.J. Foyt’s record seven titles. It’s an astonishing achievement; since his first title in 2003, further crowns came in 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2018 before hitting the half dozen mark this week. Despite the success, there remains the nagging feeling that his success hasn’t had the recognition it deserves here in his home country.
On Monday evening, TVNZ’s 1 News at 6pm led their sports bulletin with….netball. It should be noted that Three’s Newshub led their sports news with Dixon, but surely it was a given for both channels to come out with Dixon in pole position.
Things like this are difficult to analyse – I’ll admit that when I think about the subject of Dixon’s profile, it’s generally a feeling that I have rather than facts, but I don’t think I’m alone. If Steven Adams had just won a sixth NBA title, I’d imagine that the reaction would have been far more animated.
So, if we assume that I and others are right and that Dixon’s profile is more muted than other sporting superstars from these shores, why is that?
Can we blame the fact that he (and his sporting achievements) are based in America, rather than New Zealand? Possibly, but Steven Adams doesn’t appear to suffer too much from that.
What about the sport itself? Well, Kiwis love their motorsport, whatever format it takes – Scott McLaughlin, ironically joining Dixon in IndyCar is the most current example of that. To go back to Adams, basketball is a sport that has experienced huge growth in New Zealand in recent times, especially amongst the younger generation, so perhaps motorsport doesn’t get as many clicks and social media comments as the competition?
How about Dixon’s personality? Well mannered, he was willing and able to talk to any New Zealand media outlet that wanted him this week, whether it was tv radio or the press. Compare that to someone like Danny Lee and…well…you can’t compare them can you. Dixon is the clean cut, all round nice guy; so is he too nice? He doesn’t have the edge of an Israel Adesanya or the casual Kiwness of Adams, so maybe people don’t find him that interesting? Or maybe the perception is that they don’t.
Whether it’s for some or all of these reasons, it’s something that’s hard to nail, and it’s not a question that will probably become clearer as Dixon enters the later part of his career.
Just over two years ago, USA Today interviewed Dixon and one of the questions was ‘Do you feel like there’s an under-appreciation of what you’ve accomplished?’ Dixon’s reply was ‘Um, no. Everyone’s different. … I don’t know. That’s hard to answer from my perspective to be honest. Simple answer, no I don’t. I don’t feel underappreciated.’
Would you have expected any other response?
After the title was clinched on Monday, he said ‘Six is good. Seven sounds better.’ He’s back to work next week to aim for back to back titles (something he’s never achieved) and to do what he does best – win, win and win some more. I wouldn’t bet against him doing it.
Follow Aiden on Twitter