Homestead: Dixon scores debut win

Scott Dixon won on his fulltime debut in the IRL IndyCar series for Chip Ganassi Racing at Homestead today (Sunday). Dixon bolted into the lead during the second half of the Toyota Indy 300, pulled away by as many as 2.65 seconds, and then held off de Ferran's late run to win the Indy Racing League season opener

Homestead: Dixon scores debut win

It was the second major-league win of Dixon's three-year career in U.S. open-wheel racing; he won a CART race as a 20-year-old rookie at Nazareth in 2001. It also was the second consecutive open-wheel win for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, which won the 2002 CART finale at Mexico City with Kenny Brack.

In Dixon's case, winning at Miami may quite well have been as easy as it appeared. He only started 12th and steadily worked his way to the front, one car at a time.

"We basically just sat back for a while and waited to see what the car would do over the course of the run," said Dixon. "It seemed that the others deteriorated a lot more than us. We were able to pick a few off. We seemed to get better over the course of the race."

Consequently, Dixon's win set the tone for a season of change in the IRL. With fresh tyres, he blasted from fifth place into the lead in just 47 laps, making a name for Toyota - which swept the first three positions in its IRL debut - and the oft-maligned Panoz G Force chassis. He also turned the expected battle between Ganassi, Marlboro Team Penske, Andretti Green Racing and Pennzoil Panther Racing upside down.

So surprising was Dixon's steady climb through the grid, de Ferran stopped him in a hallway as the two drivers switched places during a post-race press conference.

"I can't say exactly what he said," Dixon said with a grin. "Basically he said, 'Where did you get that speed from?'"

De Ferran finished 0.5752 seconds behind. Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves was third, completing the Toyota sweep. Pole winner Tony Kanaan (who rued a mid-race wing setting change), Scott Sharp and Michael Andretti completed the top six. Toyota and Honda swept the top nine positions. Defending IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. - at 10th place - piloted the highest-finishing Chevy but suffered handling problems.

"For them [Toyota] to come in and sweep their first IRL race is fantastic," de Ferran said. "This is just one race, though; we'll see how the rest of the season plays out. It's important not to get excited about the results. We need to keep our heads down and keep searching for a better car, better driving and more horsepower."

Dixon was seventh by the halfway point of the 200-lap race, and moved into second behind Gil de Ferran with 60 laps remaining. On lap 147, Dixon came out of the pits ahead of de Ferran and never surrendered the lead.

"We got alongside Gil coming into the pits, which I think helped a little," Dixon said. "Everything just went very smoothly. We didn't rush ourselves, and we didn't come into the box too hot and overshoot, which is pretty easy to do when you're fighting for that position. Everybody did their job properly."

As the race approached its final laps, de Ferran began gaining rapidly. A two-second lead dropped below 0.4 seconds, but Dixon was never seriously in danger of being overtaken.

"Honestly, I didn't think it was going to be this good," Dixon said. "We just kept our cool, the car ran well, and this way what we came out of it with."

Britain's Dario Franchitti finished seventh, one spot behind Andretti Green Racing boss Michael Andretti, but ahead of race winner Dixon's team-mate Tomas Scheckter.

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