INDIANAPOLIS Scott Dixon was exhilarated and screaming. He also felt alone, dazed by winning the Indianapolis 500.
A day after the biggest victory of his life, he took a more leisurely spin around Indy. He rode slowly around the 2 1/2-mile oval on a white speedway bus, surrounded by microphones, notepads and cameras.
And Monday night, he received a check for almost $3 million, a record prize from the richest purse in open-wheel racing history.
"I don't normally yell too often," he recalled. "But I was definitely yelling and I had a few four-letter words in there as well to the team. Winning here, it's like nothing else.
"I keep saying to people that's the funniest part of it because all you're wanting to do is get back to the pits and enjoy it with everybody else. You feel so alone out there on that (cool-down) lap, and all you can do is talk to them on the radio."
He'll have plenty to talk about now.
The winner's share of $2,988,065, announced at the annual victory dinner at the track Monday night, broke the record of $1,761,740 for Buddy Rice's win in 2004. The total purse was $14,406,580, topping the $10,668,815 set last year. The only richer prize package in auto racing is for NASCAR's Daytona 500 at about $18 million.
Marco Andretti took home $782,065, also a record for third place. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished sixth, received $328,065, including a $25,000 award as rookie of the year.
Dixon's total for winning was more than $1 million more than his combined earnings for his five previous starts at Indy and moved his career total in the 500 to $4,881,997, fifth among all drivers.
The 27-year-old New Zealander was "almost dumbfounded" when he got to Victory Lane.
"It's such a strange feeling," he said. "And, for me, I don't show emotions too much. I don't know, it's almost like you're in a dreamland."
On Monday morning, Dixon was still struggling for perspective.
"It hasn't really kicked in yet," the new Indy champion said. "I think it's going to take a week or two to really soak it up.
"It's pretty cool. I only just saw the paper. Seeing yourself on the front page and drinking the milk. It's just the little things like that that add to it, you know, and you start to feel the sensation of it."
Nobody disputes that Dixon is one of the best drivers in the IRL's IndyCar Series. But because he is quiet and generally stays out of trouble on the track he is often overlooked.
In the days leading to the race, the bright lights were on Indy glamour girl Danica Patrick, teammate Tony Kanaan (considered by many the best current driver never to have won this race) and Marco Andretti, the 21-year-old scion of the family that has been trying without success to win a second 500 since grandfather Mario's 1969 victory.
And it was those three that drew most of the attention after a sloppy race marred by eight caution flags.
Patrick started fifth and never ran above sixth once the race began. She complained repeatedly to her team about a slow car and then got taken out on pit lane with 30 laps to go when Ryan Briscoe spun his tires and slammed into her car coming out of his pit.
The enduring image from the 92nd Indy 500 most likely will be that of the 5-foot-1, 100-pound Patrick stomping toward Briscoe's pit stall, ripping off her gloves, looking for a fight. She was stopped by track security.
"It's probably a better idea that I didn't make it all the way down there anyway," she said. "Because, well, as you guys know, I'm a little emotional."
Kanaan and Andretti appeared to have cars capable of running with Dixon until Andretti crowded his Andretti Green Racing teammate just past the midway point in the race. Kanaan scraped the wall and collected Sarah Fisher, ending both their races. Andretti went on unscathed but wound up third after a late-race adjustment by his team upset the car's handling.
In the end, it was Dixon who won the world's most important and richest open-wheel race.
He took the lead for good in the pits 29 laps from the end, getting out just ahead of eventual runner-up Vitor Meira. That appeared to be the key, but Dixon said Monday he thought it could easily have been the moment he lost it.
"When you're out front, you're a sitting duck," Dixon said. "I really would have preferred to be second coming out (of the pits). But the team did a great job and I just had to deal with being up front."
He called the ensuing restart "the pivotal moment for me."
Dixon made the start slower than usual, touched his brake for just a moment to slow Meira and the other cars behind him and shot into the first turn in front.
"I think that gave us enough buffer than Vitor couldn't get by," Dixon said. "That was the key moment for me and I think that won the race."
Monday, as he rode the media bus at speeds approaching 40 mph about 180 mph slower than his fastest laps Sunday Dixon was enjoying being the Indy 500 champion. But the 2003 IndyCar champion was also looking toward next Sunday's race in Milwaukee.
"That championship in 2003 was a long time ago," Dixon said. "We have another championship to win this year. We'll enjoy this for a few days, then get back to work. I've got much more to do yet, man, much more to do."