Brad Lewis: Scott Dixon is New Zealand's greatest ever driver

OPINION: Scott Dixon's fifth IndyCar Championship crown surely cements the 38-year-old as New Zealand's greatest ever driver.

The argument that IndyCar is the second division to Formula One is no longer relevant.

The competition in the so-called elite of motorsport has waned in recent years, with Mercedes claiming the last four drivers championships and will almost certainly claim a fifth in 2018.

It's become a precession involving two elite teams - Mercedes and Ferrari - and the rest led by Red Bull.

It's boring, and outside of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, the best drivers in the world no longer gravitate to the 'mecca of motorsport'.

Who's to say that if Brendon Hartley swapped seats with Valtteri Bottas, the Kiwi wouldn't be achieving the same results as the talented Finn?

If Dixon had spent his career in the same machinery as Lewis Hamilton, he would have shared similar success. They’re two very different drivers, with Dixon somewhat of a cerebral assassin, while Hamilton's aggression and fearless approach have won him titles, but cost him at least one other.

Dixon has raced and beaten former F1 drivers such as Alex Zanardi, Justin Wilson, Takuma Sato, Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Speed, Rubens Barrichello and Alexander Rossi.

The Kiwi pipped multiple Grand Prix winner Juan Pablo Montoya to the IndyCar title in 2015.

Scott Dixon is one of the world's elite single-seat drivers.

So let's get to the argument of why Dixon belongs at the top of New Zealand's four-wheel podium.

There are four contenders - Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, Dennis Hulme and Dixon.

Hulme is still the only Kiwi to win a F1 world title (1967), scoring eight wins and 33 podiums in 112 races over his career. That’s super impressive in an era where up to 10 drivers entered a season with hope of championship glory.

Scott Dixon after claiming the Indy Lights championship in 2000.
Scott Dixon after claiming the Indy Lights championship in 2000. Photo credit: Photosport
Dixon following his Indianapolis 500 win in 2008.
Dixon following his Indianapolis 500 win in 2008. Photo credit: Photosport
Dixon's five-titles span 15 years. 2003, 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2018.
Dixon's five-titles span 15 years. 2003, 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2018. Photo credit: Photosport

Bruce McLaren is one of the biggest names in motorsport. The Aucklander started the famous brand in 1965, breaking away from the Cooper factory team, and was joined by fellow Kiwis Amon and later Hulme, a year after his championship win.

McLaren's F1 record was four wins with 27 podiums in 100 starts.

Many believe Amon was the most talented driver of his generation, but was never in the right F1 team at the right time.

In 96 starts, Amon achieved 11 podiums and five pole positions with no race wins.

It's fair and reasonable to compare Formula One of the 1960's and 1970's to the current IndyCar series - a talent-rich field with at least four teams capable of winning every race on outright speed.

Cautions, pit strategy and a bit of luck open IndyCar up for even more winners, as proven in 2018, with seven different race winners across six different teams.

Dixon will finish his IndyCar career as one of the greatest in series history, compared to the likes of AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and Al Unser Jr.

As it stands, Dixon has five titles, 45 race wins, 105 podiums and 29 poles in 304 races over 18 years of competing.

Add the 2008 Indy 500 crown and you have one of the most impressive resumes in motorsport history.

Dixon has had longevity in a results-driven business, spending 16 years with the Chip Ganassi team, winning races almost every year and often at the head of the championship field.

And he's not done yet.

The Kiwi motorsport legend still has at least two more shots at another Indy 500 and the chance to equal Foyt's seven career championships.

That’s a tough ask in a very competitive series, but not beyond the massive talents of the father of two.

That would put his legacy beyond debate, but regardless, Scott Dixon is already the greatest driver in New Zealand motorsport history.

Brad Lewis is a Newshub online sports producer.

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