DIXON CELEBRATING THE LIFE OF HIS FORMER TEAMMATE
Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon had the pleasure of having the late Tony Renna as his teammate on two occasions.
As pups coming up through CART's Indy Lights Series, Dixon and Renna formed a strong team and built and even stronger bond at PacWest Racing. Dixon would go on to win the Lights title in 2000 and graduate to the CART Indy car series with them in 2001. Renna wasn't as fortunate, but persistence paid off when he eventually landed with the Kelly Racing IRL outfit and starred while standing in for the injured Al Unser Jr.
Renna was signed to partner with Dixon at the Ganassi team for 2004, but died during a test with the team at Indianapolis on Oct. 22, 2003. Just as Patrick Long had a Tony Renna tribute helmet made to wear during Saturday's Petit Le Mans ALMS race at Road Atlanta, Dixon will also carry a tribute to Renna on his helmet with the 10-year anniversary of his passing just days away.
Although he's focused on beating Helio Castroneves to the IndyCar title, Dixon never shies away from talking about his fallen friend who made such a profound impact on his life and career.
“From my standpoint, he was one of the best teammates I've had,” Dixon told RACER. “He was a caring guy. And in this industry that's very hard to find. Whether it was coming back from a test or a race he would come pick you up at the airport. Whether you got yourself in trouble, he's the guy that you could always rely on. For me, it was all great memories with Tony.”
Just as many have said over the years, losing Renna before he was able to hit the big time with Ganassi was a cruel ending for the Californian. He was a star in the making, according to Dixon.
“That's what I was looking forward to the most with Tony because he was a talented guy,” he said. “He was very smooth, very good with everybody. He kind of reminded me of Dan [Wheldon]. He wasn't maybe the big personality that Dan was, but he was a thoughtful guy and he was always about the finer things and about attention to detail. That always stood out to me.”
Dixon also spoke to the lessons he learned from Renna that have stuck with him long after his loss.
“I think with all of us and how busy our lives can be, Tony was good at separating his professional life and his personal life and the people that he cares for,” he added. “So you see those parts and I try to be better at separating. And I think that's helped me a lot. The racing is a big part and it's our career and our lives but you've also got your loved ones. Even if you've got to pick up the phone to call your sister or your family, it goes a long way. And that's for me what Tony was good at. It sort of ties in with attention to detail on a lot of things.”
Wednesday marked the two-year anniversary of Dan Wheldon's death – another teammate and dear friend to Dixon, which has made this one of the more powerful spans the Kiwi has experienced while trying to concentrate on winning an IndyCar championship.
Yeah, for sure; obviously with Dan's stuff, because it's still so fresh as well, I'll obviously try to spend time or talk to the ones that who were close to him, and a lot of multi-tasking is involved this week, without a doubt,” he admitted.
It's too early for Dixon to plan any championship-related celebrations, but he does know where he'll celebrate the life of his friend once he leaves Fontana and heads home to Indy.
“Next Tuesday we'll go up to the Speedway on the 22nd for Tony, have a bit of a picnic there in Turn 3 where he crashed, to reminisce and talk about those days,” he said quietly. “I'm not sure who will come in yet but it'll be good to catch up with some of the people who knew him and loved him. It's times like these where it gets hard and there's a lot of sorrow and it tugs at the heartstrings.
“But the other side of it, it's good to chat and reminisce and talk about the good times and talk about all those things about an important friend like Tony. Racing is a small community and it's good that – it's really a fortunate part that everybody still stays pretty tight, stays together. Even though it's over a bad thing, you get a little closer.”