Which driver has to put on his left shoe first before the race, and who keeps it positive on his helmet radio when the stress soars? Chip Ganassi Racing asked the significant others of four drivers to give us the inside track on their star partners.
How does he prepare for race weekend?
Emma Davies Dixon (wife of Scott Dixon, pictured, left): A good week of training, Taco Bell on Thursday—and then a lot of sleep.
What’s the best way to deal with him when he’s had a bad day at the track?
Nicole Briscoe (wife of Ryan Briscoe): “Hand him [their infant daughter] Finley or a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips. Better yet, both.
What types of superstitions does he have before the race?
Dixon: Scotty isn’t massively superstitious, but he does like to keep the same race-helmet paint job.
Lauren Bohlander Kanaan (wife of Tony Kanaan): He puts on his left shoe first and gets into the car from the left side.
Kathleen Thompson (fiancee of Charlie Kimball): Not so much superstitions, but rituals. Before he puts his helmet on, he gives me a kiss, and he and his dad have a special handshake.
What does race morning look like for you?
Briscoe: It usually starts when the cannon goes off and scares the &%$# out of me! F1 at Monaco is usually on the TV, but really there is nothing about the morning of the Indy 500 that is normal. I won’t lie; I usually wake up nervous for that race.
What does he eat for breakfast on race day?
Dixon: Usually something heavy like English pancakes, eggs, and fresh fruit. I always try to do Scott a big breakfast, as he’s normally too hyped up to eat near the race. So something that’ll take a little while to digest.
Kanaan: Three egg whites and oatmeal.
Thompson: Two eggs sunny side up, fruit, and toast. But no blueberries. He hates blueberries.
What’s one thing you always hear him say on the radio during the race?
Briscoe (right): He’s pretty quiet on the radio. If he starts talking a lot, that usually means something has gone wrong.
Dixon: During May, I tend to always hear him point out that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Thompson: He always thanks the crew guys. He’ll say something like, ‘Nice stop, boys.’
What’s your favorite thing about the owner/driver lot?
Briscoe: Because of my own job [ ESPN’s Nascar Countdown host], I don’t get to go to all of Ryan’s races. May is special because not only am I at the races, but I’m in Indy pretty much the entire time he’s in Indy. Three weeks? In the same place? At the same time? The only other time that happens is in the off-season.
Favorite May event that you attend?
Briscoe: There are so many! I love the 500 Festival parade. The route is packed, and it’s fun to see just how much Indianapolis embraces the Indy 500.
Dixon: Probably the driver after-party the night of the race. I help put on the event with local DJs. It’s always a riot—a chance for the drivers to celebrate the win, or to drink, dance, and shake off the fact that they didn’t win.
Kanaan: Zoopolis 500 or the Pit Stop Competition.
Thompson: The Indy Family Foundation Festival on Main. Heather Carpenter and I have worked really hard to make this event a success for the last two years, and seeing so many people enjoying the event on May 9 makes it so worth it!
How you do choose your race-day outfit?
Dixon: The weather plays a big part. I always like to dress up a lot more for the 500.
Kanaan: From the footwear up. I have to be comfortable.
Favorite sound at the track?
Dixon: The start.
Briscoe: The sound of the cars. They have a unique sound at Indy.
Kanaan (right): The roar of all 33 cars out of Turn 4 and down the front straight, taking the green flag.
Thompson: The sound of the cars echoing in the tunnel as you drive in.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen a fan do during the month of May?
Briscoe: Two words: Carb Day. During the Pit Stop Competition, a woman decided to climb the catch fence and lie on the curved part that goes over pit road. Let’s just say she was missing certain articles of clothing.
Kanaan: One lady had Tony autograph her shoulder blade and then went straight to have it tattooed on permanently! She came back to show us the finished product.
Thompson: Last year, when Andrew Luck came to visit Charlie at the track, there were crazy fans running along the golf cart, trying to get Andrew to sign things. It was insane. But what’s different about IMS than every other track is the dedication of the fans. They will stand outside of a garage for hours to get a picture or autograph, while at other tracks the fans might stand there for 15 or 20 minutes and leave. But not at IMS.