The Last 50 Race Winner?

Photo: Scott Dixon after winning his 50th career race at World Wide Technology Raceway on Saturday. Chris Owens, Indycar

On Saturday Scott Dixon became just the third driver in Indycar history to win 50 races. The two in front of him, A. J. Foyt with 67 wins, and Mario Andretti with 52, have stood as the only to achieve the 50 race race mark since 1988, when Andretti won his 50th race at Phoenix. Foyt’s 50th came in 1975 at Trenton.

A. J. Foyt

There are similarities between the three drivers. Foyt and Dixon both hit the win mark at age 40. Andretti was 44, but spent 1975-1981 full time in Formula 1, although he still drove in the Indianapolis 500. An argument could be made that had Andretti drove Indycar full time during those years, he would have won 50 races much earlier. Could he have have surpassed Foyt for first place all time? That’s a great topic for bench racing.

Mario Andretti

I’m not sure how to decide which of the three drivers’ feat is the most remarkable. Foyt raced in an era where careers were usually shortened by injuries or death. Andretti also raced during the same era as Foyt. Dixon has raced most of his career in spec cars where the equipment is essentially equal in theory.

Will we see another driver win as many as 50 races? Only one other driver, Michael Andretti has won more than 40 times. I think the odds are quite long. The next active driver on the win list is Will Power with 37 wins, tied for sixth on the career list with Sebastien Bourdais. Power has a chance to reach the 40 win mark, but his remaining  time in Indycar looks limited.  Ryan Hunter-Reay has 18 wins, 26th all time.  Simon Pagenaud now has won 15 times, which ties him for 31st with Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. Only 45 drivers since 1909 have won 10 or more times.

If another driver ends up with 50 or more career win, he would be one of the newer drivers in the series. Any driver with potential has a lot to battle in his quest for the magic number. He needs to be on a top team for many years, like Dixon has been. There are  concerns of sponsors, injuries, mechanical failures, and accidents.

An Indycar career can last a long time. The aeroscreen may have added some years to a driver’s time on the track. The competitiveness of the series makes it more difficult to win a race. While this year may be a bit of an aberration, we have had there have been five different winners in nine races. Indycar has been averaging about seven different winners a season the past few years.

If I had to guess which drivers  may someday reach 50 victories, Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward would be the first two which come to mind. Herta won twice last year. O’Ward has yet to win a race, but I have a feeling that once he gets his first checkered flag, he will begin winning with regularity.

I have been fortunate to see each of the three 50 race winners drive and win races. Today’s fans need to appreciate Scott Dixon as he competes in his last few years  in Indycar. I admired the skills of Foyt and Andretti when they raced. Seeing them has helped me understand that Dixon is their equal.