Dixon takes first unified IRL win
|By Jeff Olson||Sunday, March 30th 2008, 02:08 GMT|
Scott Dixon took advantage of Tony Kanaan's misfortune to win the historic first unified round of the IRL IndyCar Series under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The victory was Dixon's 12th since his Chip Ganassi Racing team left Champ Car for the Indy Racing League at the end of the 2002 season.
His triumph came at the expense of Andretti Green Racing driver Kanaan, who was leading the race when the lapped HVM car of Ernesto Viso spun and collected him with just seven laps remaining.
"When somebody spins in front of you at 230 mph, you're like, 'Where should I go?'" Kanaan explained.
"I slowed down. He was on the bottom, so I went to the top. Then all of a sudden he started to go to the top and I went to the bottom. There was nothing I could do about it.
"The race is not finished until the chequered flag," Kanaan said. "But how many times have I won races because some other guy was unlucky? With 10 laps to go I was looking around and thinking, 'This is too easy.'"
Dixon, who led 67 of the 200 laps on the 1.5-mile oval, found himself back in the lead on a restart with three laps to go, when Kanaan, his right front wheel crippled from the Viso crash, ducked low and let the field pass on the final restart.
"I didn't even know he'd hit the guy," Dixon said. "It would have been really close if he hadn't had the incident because we were catching him pretty quickly. It was a damn shame to see him have such a silly little incident take him out of the race.
"Tony had a great car. We were struggling on long runs, but we were able to stay in it because of pit stops. Our guys were great all night long on pit stops. This is fantastic.
"It was one of those races where we didn't exactly have speed all the time or things weren't really going our way. But if you can have races like that, where you have a bad day and still come out on top, it's a great way to take away points from others."
It was the fourth consecutive Homestead victory for Chip Ganassi's team, who had won the previous three season-openers with Dan Wheldon.
Mid-race leader Marco Andretti (AGR) finished second, just ahead of Wheldon, who started near the back of the pack because of a crash in qualifying but quickly raced into contention.
Andretti raced into the lead early in the evening and stayed there for more laps than anyone else - 85 altogether. His pass on Dixon for the lead on the 76th lap - a frightening squeeze between the wall and Dixon's car in Turn 4 - left both drivers buzzing after the race.
"Dixon saved both of us, really," Andretti said. "At that point, if I had gotten out of it, my car would have come around. I had to just go for it on the outside. His car wiggled all the way up the track, and I wiggled with him. But he got it straight before we both hit the wall."
"I was getting ready to let go of the wheel on that one," admitted Dixon. "I just heard, 'Outside, outside, outside' but I was getting so close to the wall. There was no room left and I didn't want to turn the wheel because I knew if I did I was going to spin out."
Following Dixon, Andretti and Wheldon were Penske's Helio Castroneves, Vision driver Ed Carpenter - who also came through from the back having failed post-qualifying technical inspection - AGR's Danica Patrick and Rahal Letterman driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Kanaan limped home in eighth place, followed by AJ Foyt IV in the second Vision car and Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira.
Oriol Servia (KV Racing) in 12th place was the highest finishing of the newcomers from Champ Car, scoring a solid if somewhat cautious finish five laps behind the leaders.
Franck Perera finished 14th for Conquest, with Justin Wilson (Newman Haas Lanigan) 15th after early contact with KV driver Will Power, and Dale Coyne's Mario Moraes taking 16th.
The race was interrupted only three times by cautions. The first came for debris on the 18th lap, the second for Milka Duno's spin that collected Penske driver Ryan Briscoe on the 127th lap, and the last for Viso's spin, which barely brushed Kanaan's right front but did enough damage to cost him the race.
Pos Driver Team Time 1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 200 laps 2. Marco Andretti Andretti Green + 0.5828 3. Dan Wheldon Ganassi + 1.4278 4. Helio Castroneves Penske + 8.0340 5. Ed Carpenter Vision + 1 lap 6. Danica Patrick Andretti Green + 1 lap 7. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman + 1 lap 8. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green + 2 laps 9. AJ Foyt IV Vision + 2 laps 10. Vitor Meira Panther + 3 laps 11. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold + 4 laps 12. Oriol Servia KV + 5 laps 13. Darren Manning Foyt + 6 laps 14. Franck Perera Conquest + 6 laps 15. Justin Wilson Newman Haas Lanigan + 7 laps 16. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne + 13 laps 17. Ernesto Viso HVM + 17 laps 18. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest + 51 laps 19. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 74 laps 20. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold + 78 laps 21. Marty Roth Roth +147 laps 22. Jay Howard Roth +150 laps 23. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne +160 laps 24. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green +168 laps 25. Will Power KV +176 laps