Sidelines: Local driver has racing in his blood
Steve Dickson attended the Indianapolis 500 for the very first time as an 11- year old way back in 1968 as his Uncle Larry made the third of what would be eight starts at the legendary Brickyard.
The Marietta native has missed very few 500s since then while carrying on a family tradition by tasting success on the biggest stage in all of racing.
With his father Richard owning a race car as a youth and his uncles Larry, Tommy, and Paul racing them, Dickson would spend just about every weekend of his childhood at the local race tracks.
“For us growing up, we were just always around it,” said the 56-year old Dickson, who is now the general manager for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan in the Verizon Indycar Series. “We went to three races every single weekend.”
Not surprisingly when Dickson became old enough to drive he wasted little time getting behind the wheel himself as he began to drive midgets owned by his father.
After graduating from Warren Local High School in 1975, Steve had some success on the dirt tracks as he raced sprint cars across Ohio and Indianapolis.
By the mid eighties, Steve’s focus had turned more to working on the cars than driving them and when he applied for a position with a professional race team it proved to be the breakthat got him to the next level of racing.
“Truesports had moved their racing team from Indianapolis to Hillard,” said Dickson of the team that had Bobby Rahal as one of their drivers. “I went and put in an application and got hired to start at the very bottom.”
Ironically Dickson’s very first day with Truesports was the day after Rahal won the Indy 500 in 1986.
The team went onto win back-to-back Indy-Car championships in 1986 and 87 and Dickson began to work his way up the ladder.
“I did just about every job there was to do, from driving trucks to working on the pit crew as a tire changer,” said Dickson.
By the mid-nineties Rahal had taken over ownership of the team and Dickson had worked his way all the way up to a team manager with the teams Indy Light Series program where he worked with such drivers as Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves.
Dickson left Rahal for a year as he became a technical manager for the Indy Car series in 2002 before getting a call from his prior boss to return as a team manager for the 2003 season.
With Kenny Brack as his driver, Dickson led his team to a very successful campaign before Brack suffered critical injuries in a crash in the season’s final race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Brack spent the entire 2004 campaign recovering from his injuries forcing the Rahal team to hire Buddy Rice as his replacement driver and Rice went on to provide Dickson with the biggest accomplishment of his career, a victory in the Indy 500.
“In racing you experience so many highs and so many lows,’ said Dickson. “It was incredible to bounce back from what could have been a tragedy to winning the Indy 500 a few months later.”
Dickson spent a few more years as team manager before deciding to get off the road as he accepted the position of Operations Manager for Rahal Letterman Lanigan in 2008.
When he is not managing things at Rahal, Dickson spends his time these days helping his youngest son Bryce who has began his own racing career as he started racing quarter midgets before moving onto race sprint cars.
Another son Brandon, is following in his fathers footsteps as he is working his way up the ladder at the Rahal shop in Hilliard.
Bryce is currently in his third year at Ohio State University and once he graduates from college will decide his future plans in racing.
“Some people view racing as a hobby but for us it’s always been a passion,” said Steve, whose brother Dave has also had a successful career racing sprint cars in the Mid-Ohio Valley. “You just have to put in the work and if it develops into a career it does.”
That racing tradition is now some 60 years old and with the likes of Brandon and Bryce and a whole slew of Dickson relatives beginning to make their mark in racing, will likely be going strong for many years to come.
“Whether you are racing at Skyline (Speedway) or Indy, racing is racing,” said Dickson. “It’s just what are family has loved to do and we have been fortunate to have success.”