Nashville: de Ferran outfoxes Dixon

Team Penske's Gil de Ferran won a battle of strategy to win the Firestone Indy 200, the ninth race of the 16-race IRL IndyCar Series, at Nashville on Saturday night

Nashville: de Ferran outfoxes Dixon

De Ferran took the lead 27 laps from the end and held off pole-sitter Scott Dixon to score his first win since his triumph at the Indianapolis 500 in May. It also vaulted him past Dixon into second place in the IndyCar Series standings in spite of missing one race while recovering from injuries.

"My goal is to win the championship, make no mistake about that," de Ferran said. "The way I focus on that is by not focusing on that. It's by focusing on each and every weekend as they come."

De Ferran took the lead when Tora Takagi and Al Unser Jr. pitted on the 173rd lap of the 200-lap race. He had put himself in third place when he passed Dan Wheldon on the 162nd lap. Eventually, he found himself leading a race in which the lead changed 10 times with relatively little passing.

"It was a real strange race," Dixon said. "People were doing different things with strategy. In the end, we had to save fuel. It was just bizarre."

De Ferran overcame a number of harrowing moments during the race, including his first pit stop and the final laps, when his tyres became seriously worn and he nearly lost control in the turns.

"I was sliding around there at the end," de Ferran said. "I was wide open, but it was hard to keep the boot in it. I had a couple of slides coming off of four and two, but I made it."

De Ferran's winning move, though, may have happened on the 15th lap. While chasing Dixon for the early lead, de Ferran ducked low and passed him, barely missing the sidepod on Dixon's Panoz G Force.

"I had tried to the outside first, but he started to come up," de Ferran said. "As soon as he did that, I went down. I didn't go below the white line. There was just enough room to fit between the white line and Scott. Once I was inside, the momentum just carried me. At that point, I though, 'OK, now how am I going to make this turn?'"

De Ferran missed the Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi while recovering from injuries sustained in a wreck in March at Phoenix International Raceway. With the wins at Indy and Nashville - along with third-place finishes in the previous three races - de Ferran has climbed to within 14 points of Tony Kanaan for the lead in the IRL standings.

Following Dixon to the finish line was de Ferran's Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, who passed Dan Wheldon for third place late in the race.

"It was very difficult to pass," Castroneves said. "With a one-line groove, you just have to wait and see what you can do. Toward the end, the only chance I had was to pass Dan Wheldon on the restart. This is good; we just need to keep knocking on the door like this."

Wheldon held on for fourth - Honda's highest finisher. Alex Barron, replacing injured Felipe Giaffone, finished fifth, while Kenny Brack held on to sixth. Sam Hornish Jr. finished 11th after driving into the lead midway through the race, marking the first time in nine races this season that a Chevrolet-powered car led a lap.

"We got our momentum taken away from us," Hornish said. "We could pass stuff left and right, but we had to make sure we kept the momentum going. That's been the big thing for us this year."

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