Preview: Title rivals aim for consistency

Consistency. It's easier said than done. Just ask Scott Dixon. The Ganassi Racing driver has been one of the most dominant drivers during the first 10 races of the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series, winning three times and leading 343 consecutive laps through three races. However, this weekend's Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway marks only the second time he's entered an event atop the IRL standings

Preview: Title rivals aim for consistency

The reason? Lack of consistency. When Dixon wasn't winning, he wasn't finishing particularly well. Since a string of poor finishes early in the season, though, Dixon hasn't finished worse than sixth in the last six races.

"In this series, if you have a mechanical, you've got to fix it and get back out there," Dixon said. "You have to try to pick up as many points as possible. We've had scenarios that we're kicking ourselves over now - like the one at Phoenix, where we should have come back to the garage and fix the gearbox and gone back out. Things like that will drive you crazy."

As teams prepare for Saturday's qualifying session, Dixon holds a one-point lead over Tony Kanaan, who had led the IRL standings since the Indianapolis 500. Dixon also returns to his strength - tracks of odd shapes and lengths. Gateway's 1.25-mile oval has turns of distinctly different radii and banking.

"It's a fun circuit," Dixon said. "I think I'm better suited to the smaller ovals. This is more familiar. I enjoy circuits that have a big difference - where (turns) three and four are just about flat out, but then you've got to downshift twice going into (turns) one and two. I think it's a lot more fun."

Dixon isn't the only driver making a mathematical surge. Gil de Ferran, who missed a race because of an injury, has rallied with two wins and three thirds to move into third place in the standings, three points behind Dixon.

"You just have to be consistently up front," de Ferran said. "Win when you can, and when you cannot, you have to finish second. If you cannot even finish second, you have to finish third. You just have to stay, hopefully, in the top three in the last six races. It is very important to finish every race and keep doing well."

Others, including de Ferran's teammate, Helio Castroneves, remain in contention as the series enters its final six races. In fact, the top nine drivers in the standings are separated by just 104 points. Just don't look for the leaders to take any wild chances during the final events.

"We'll just keep trying to win races," Dixon said. "There might be the occasional thing where you anticipate things. If you think it's a big chance, maybe you won't take it. You'll still race hard. You can't look into it too much. You have to carry on as usual."

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