To be sure, though, winning the Indy 500 — the sport’s most prestigious race — is every IndyCar driver’s dream. First run in 1911, it became a Memorial Day weekend tradition. It is the biggest single-day spectator event in the United States, with around 350,000 fans at the 2.5-mile oval track. This year, the spectator limit will be about 135,000 because of coronavirus concerns.
Dixon relishes the memory from 2008 of chugging milk in the winner’s circle, as so many champions had done before him. Afterward, he got a call from New Zealand offering him what he thought, ecstatically, was “land for life.” Now he tells the story with a laugh. He had misheard. The prize was “lamb for life,” offered by a New Zealand sheep breeders association, and it wasn’t a great fit, considering Davies-Dixon had persuaded her husband to stop eating all meat but chicken.
Dixon has finished second three times — including last year, when he led 111 of the 200 laps. All of those races ended under a yellow caution flag, meaning that Dixon could not make an effort to pass the leader.
“It’s so unfair,” Davies-Dixon said of those frustrating second-place finishes. She grabbed Dixon’s arm and leaned into him. “But this is your year, isn’t it? This is our year!”
Dixon smiled and said, “I really hope so.”
Dixon was in his mid-20s and already a one-time IndyCar champion when he met Emma Davies in 2006. He had been living a bachelor’s life, partying with his friends, skipping main courses to go straight to dessert and eating Taco Bell or whatever he found in his fridge and cupboards.
It raised Davies’s eyebrows when she learned Dixon could win without buttoning up every aspect of his life. At that time, she wasn’t competing as a runner, having taken a break after her father, who was also her coach, died of cancer at 47. Davies redirected her passion for competition to Dixon, falling in love with him while devising a plan to help his career.
She improved his eating habits, keeping nuts, seeds and fruit on hand so that when he blindly grabbed something from the kitchen it wouldn’t be just Swedish candy fish or Twix chocolate bars. She got rid of the red meat; now his menu is mainly plant-based. She extolled the re-energizing power of napping. At a certain time every evening, she would tap her watch at him to signal bedtime.