- 27 December 2016
When Brandon Dixon crossed the line first at New Jersey Motorsports Park in August to score his debut F2000 Championship Series victory, he called it a four-year journey. That odyssey began in 2012, when he started building and preparing his F2000 Championship entry, and as the 2017 opener at VIR nears, the veteran driver is one of the early favorites for a Championship run.
With a solid background campaigning a F1000 Citation chassis, including two National Championships, Dixon started building his F2000 car between 2012 and 2013.
His first event out was a shakedown of sorts – 900 miles from his Alabama home – at the June Sprints in June of 2015.
“That was the first time the car moved under its own power,” said Dixon, who teaches computer science at the University of Alabama. “There are a lot of funny stories from that weekend. We were just thrashing to get the thing done. On the drive up there I was sleeping in the back of the truck, sat straight up and said ‘mirrors’ at about three in the morning. It hit me that I hadn’t even thought about it, or begun to fit mirrors on the car.”
Luckily, there were mirrors in Dixon’s trailer, and after a solid outing at the Runoffs, he joined the F2000 Championship field at Mid-Ohio two weeks later, finishing a relatively anonymous 13th and 16th. Dixon said the car started the weekend incredibly awful and by the end, was better after adjustments to shock valving.
“We had a great time. Our original intent was not necessarily to run the rest of the F2000 Championship Series that year. We thought we’d do Mid-Ohio and another SCCA race and maybe go to the Runoffs. But we had a good enough time that we said, screw it, let’s go run the F2000 Series,” Dixon said. “It was more traveling, the events were further away, but it was worth it.”
Of note, Dixon puts in long hauls with trusted advisor and crew chief Wren Keith, often driving through the night to arrive at tracks Friday morning after clocking out of their day jobs on Thursday evening.
At Pittsburgh in August of 2015, his second weekend in pro-level competition, Dixon broke into the top ten with a ninth place run, and a day later, took home his first top five.
2016 started with a pole position for at Road Atlanta and then a podium and his best result yet, finishing second by just over 1.2 seconds to eventual title winner Steve Bamford in the season opener.
As the Series visited event after event, Dixon became a regular front-runner, until it all came together on a Saturday afternoon in New Jersey – with the No. 5 crossing the line in first.
“The win was a combination of head-down developing the car and getting the setup better,” said Dixon, who caught the racing bug on his father’s shoulders at the 1971 Runoffs. “There were probably a half a dozen little adjustments, some of which seem incredibly small, but we continued to make progress. Another part of it is me getting better, particularly with the radial tires.”
Why build his own car?
“I really enjoy that part of it too,” Dixon answered. After heading knee-deep into the Formula F world in the 1990s, he took some time off from racing, only to build an airplane, eventually catching the bug again in 2007.
As for F2000, he called it a surprisingly friendly place.
“I think the reality is the environment and the paddock and to some extent on the race track, it is pretty friendly. It’s open and everyone wants to see everyone else enjoy themselves.”
The F2000 Championship opens at VIRginia International Raceway, April 28-30.