INDIANAPOLIS — After winning the Indianapolis 500 pole, collecting a $100,000 check and doing the usual interview circuit, Scott Dixon tried to relax.
Instead, he got the scare of his life.
As he ordered dinner for his teammates at one of the few fast-food restaurants still open near Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dixon and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti were robbed at gunpoint while waiting in the drive-thru line.
Neither was injured and two boys, ages 15 and 14, were arrested a short time later.
“While they were ordering with their windows down two guys approached at gunpoint,” said Tony Kannan, a teammate of Dixon’s with Chip Ganassi Racing. “They held a gun at Dixon’s head and asked him for his wallet and his phone. You don’t expect that to happen, especially here.”
The robbery happened shortly before 10 p.m. less than a mile from one of the world’s most famous racing venues, where Dixon had just earned the top starting position in IndyCar’s showcase race coming up on Sunday. Police did not immediately disclose what was taken from the two drivers.
By Monday, when drivers returned to the track for practice, Dixon had become the target of some good-natured humour.
His team owner joked on Twitter that the alleged incident would cost him a sponsorship deal with the fast-food chain.
Kanaan cracked that because he’s from Brazil, he’s a little more accustomed to handling “this stuff.”
While the notion that one of IndyCar’s biggest and best-paid stars was making a late-night fast food run seemed odd to some, that wasn’t the case in Gasoline Alley where Dixon is one of the most respected drivers.
“Actually, I have done that a few times,” team owner and former IndyCar star Michael Andretti said. “When you’re driving, you’re in the motorhome and sometimes you eat late and you just want to get a quick bite. And things around here close early.”
Clearly, Dixon isn’t the only IndyCar driver with a hankering for fast food.
American Graham Rahal is currently sponsored by Steak ‘n Shake and has previously been sponsored by McDonald’s.
Four-time 500 champ Rick Mears celebrated his first victory, in 1979, at Wendy’s.
Former Indy pole-winner and three-time NASCAR champ Tony Stewart made no secret of his craving for burgers. And former NASCAR driver Larry Foyt said it’s no different down South.
“There’s a lot of fun, a lot of camaraderie in the motorhomes,” the team president of A.J. Foyt Racing said. “But sometimes people went out like that. For Scott, I’m sure it’s a little bit of normalcy to get away from all the emotions of Pole Day.”
Dixon declined to comment on Monday. He is scheduled to appear Tuesday in Toronto as part of the series’ media tour — and he’s likely to be peppered with questions about what happened.
Until then, Ganassi and his team are not talking to reporters so they can focus on getting ready for Sunday’s race.
It sure didn’t affect him Monday. The New Zealander posted the third fastest lap of the day at 227.165 mph.
“Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti are completely fine after being held up last night by two men at a fast-food restaurant,” the team said in a statement. “We will allow the Speedway/Indianapolis police departments to handle the situation and while they conduct their investigation we will refrain from making any further comments to allow Scott to focus on the upcoming Indianapolis 500.”
According to the police report, detectives said surveillance cameras showed a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot before the robbery.
About 30 minutes later, the report said, officers stopped the car and the passenger fled. He was apprehended by a police dog. One of the suspects was taken to Marion County Holding at Eskenazi Hospital while the other went to the local juvenile detention centre.
Police said one of the suspects was identified by one of the robbery victims. The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office will review the case and make a changing decision.
Dixon won the 2008 Indy 500 from the pole. He is fourth all-time on the series’ career list for wins (40), is tied for second in most series championships (four) and is now one of five drivers to win the Indy pole three times. He also is a friend of longtime teammate Franchitti, a Scot who was forced into retirement following a serious crash late in the 2013 season at Houston.
Franchitti won 31 IndyCar races, tied for ninth all-time, and like Dixon won four series titles. Franchitti and Brazil’s Helio Castroneves are the only foreign-born drivers to win the Indy 500 three times.
“We’re all very relieved to hear that everyone is safe and that the suspects were caught,” Taco Bell Corp. spokesman Rob Poetsch said in an email.