Dominant Dixon knows race for title is anything but over Patrick, Dixon earn ESPY nods Reid hopes to emulate Dixon's success
1. Dominant Dixon knows race for title is anything but over: Scott Dixon need only look at the second half of the 2007 IndyCar Series season to make him alternately smile and shudder as it relates to this year’s championship race.
He was 65 points behind Franchitti exiting the Richmond race, but rattled off four victories in the final eight to outscore Franchitti 370-331 and set up a season-ending duel for the series title.
The momentum hasn’t slowed. The driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara has eight top-five finishes in nine races, including three victories, and holds a 43-point advantage over Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves at the halfway point of the season. Dixon’s teammate, Dan Wheldon, is 52 points behind.
Dixon isn’t comfortable with the cushion, especially with six of the final nine races on road/street courses. First up is the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on July 6 at the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen International circuit.
“It’s been one of those seasons when things seem to go your way more often than not, from the end of last season and through to this year” said Dixon, who’s won the past three years at The Glen. “It’s even little things like Iowa when we didn’t have the correct car, and we got rained out and got pole (based on entrant points). That definitely helped. Thank God we kind of sorted the car through the race and we were somewhat competitive (finished fourth).
“Hopefully we keep the ball rolling, but I think if you talk about how fantastic you are too much it’s going to fall over on you. It can turn on you pretty quick, so you have to try to ride the wave as long as you can and hopefully it never falls off until we win another championship.”
Dixon’s steady results netted the 2003 title when he was a newcomer to the series, and similar results have bred confidence throughout the No. 9 car crew.
“It does help your confidence going into the weekend,” he said. “There’s a long way to go, so we have to treat each weekend as it is until you get down to those last few to determine where you work out for the championship. Now it’s the time to press on and gain as many points as you can.
“At the moment, I really feel I have to push on the ovals because Helio is extremely strong on the road courses. I think both of us are going to be fairly well-matched at a lot of those places, and that’s almost half of the remainder of the season. It’s those things you put into your mind as well to try to work out where you need to be better than other people. I think you still have to treat it race by race and go for the race win but if you can’t win don’t push it too much that you’re going to lose a ton of points by crashing.”
Castroneves hasn’t forfeited many points though he’s looking for his first victory since April 2007 and his first IndyCar Series title. The No. 3 Team Penske entry has finished in the top five in eight of the nine events, including runner-up four times. Castroneves advanced from 18th on the starting grid to finish second to Andretti Green Racing’s Tony Kanaan at Richmond on June 28.
Kanaan is fourth in the title search (82 points back) and teammate Danica Patrick is fifth (131 behind). AGR driver Hideki Mutoh leads the Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year standings and is sixth overall. Marco Andretti, Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servia and Ed Carpenter also are in the top 10.
As Dixon notes, anyone can put together a run similar to his last year and quickly close the gap. At Watkins Glen in ’07, Castroneves was the pole sitter and led the initial 19 laps before crashing in Turn 11. Dixon, who started second, led the final 17 laps (and 23 overall) to post the victory.
“I want to redeem myself from last year, and we know that we have more competitors,” Castroneves said. “We know we are going to have a lot of guys doing good on road courses -- that was proved in St. Petersburg. It's good for the championship to mix it up a little bit.”
2. Patrick, Dixon earn ESPY nods: IndyCar Series drivers Danica Patrick and Scott Dixon are among the nominees for ESPY awards to be presented July 20 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Patrick, the Andretti Green Racing driver who is fifth in the standings heading into the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen this weekend, is nominated in the Best Female Athlete category along with Lorena Ochoa (LPGA), Candace Parker (WNBA) and Lindsey Vonn (skiing).
Patrick also is nominated in the Best Moment category for her IndyCar Series victory at Twin Ring Motegi in April, when she became the first female to win an IndyCar Series race. Patrick also will be an award presenter at the show, hosted by Justin Timberlake, in Los Angeles.
Dixon, the IndyCar Series points leader, joins Lewis Hamilton (Formula One), Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Dario Franchitti (NASCAR) and Tony Schumacher (NHRA) as nominees for Best Driver. Dixon has three victories this season, including the 92nd Indianapolis 500.
Online voting is open through July 12 at ESPYS.tv. Nominees were announced in 37 categories in which fans will determine the winner.
3. Reid hopes to emulate Dixon's success: After winning numerous championships in his native New Zealand, Scott Dixon left his hometown of Auckland for the United States. to further his racing career.
Earlier this year, another young driver from Auckland, Jonny Reid, ventured across the globe to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand's first Indianapolis 500 winner.
Reid, like Dixon, was a champion of New Zealand's Formula Ford series, but chose to compete in Europe and A1GP before switching to the oval-based racing. He made his Firestone Indy Lights and oval debut at Indianapolis, finishing 20th in the Firestone Freedom 100 in a car prepared by Integra Motorsports. A week later at Milwaukee, he was 15th.
At Iowa, Reid showed signs of his racing potential, running as high as sixth place before crashing out of the event 10 laps from the finish.
"Iowa was obviously my best oval even though I had a mishap," said Reid, whose grandfather was an oval racer in New Zealand. "I was quite satisfied because we were probably the third-quickest car on the track. We had started 16th and had improved the car a lot from qualifying for the race. Everybody kept positive and worked really hard. It was great to work with such a team of guys and pull forward in the race."
Now Reid returns to his roots – road racing. He'll make his first start on a road course at the Corning Duels. Reid got his first glimpse of the famed road course's 11-turn, 3.4-mile layout during a test last week.
"We were quick as anyone and didn't use all of our tires, which is quite pleasing," he said following the test. "We know we have a good car over the race distance. I think we can be very strong during the race weekend."
But while racing on road courses is familiar, racing a pair of 100-mile races on the same day may be a new experience.
"I haven't done anything like it really," he said. "I did Japanese F3 and they race twice in the same day, but the races are much shorter than this. I come from A1GP. It's quite a physical car and much longer races. They race twice in the weekend, but one is a feature and one is a sprint. I think physically I can handle racing two in one day. You just have to be careful in the first one. But you always try to be a little bit careful when it comes to racing."
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen July 6 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with a same-day doubleheader, the Corning Duels, on July 5 at Watkins Glen International. It will air at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 10 on ESPN2 and live on indycar.com.