:1. In the heart of 'Dixie' beats a 2012 title contender2. Inside the box score - Barber Motorsports Park3. Derby contender draws interest in INDYCAR Paddock4. Another solid finish for Pagenaud, 'Matey':
1. In the heart of 'Dixie' beats a 2012 title contender: Encumbered with slow starts the past few seasons, Scott Dixon isn't about to downplay the efforts of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew in developing the new car and Honda engine package this young season.In fact, sitting second in the championship after two events is his best foundation since winning the second of his IZOD IndyCar Series titles in 2008. Runner-up in both races - the latter for the third year in a row at Barber Motorsports Park - has Dixon two points arrears of front-runner Helio Castroneves (84) heading to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15.Will Power, who finished 3.3709 seconds ahead of Dixon in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 1, has 77 points."Every race pays the same amount of points. My issue has been the start of the season, so we've tried to start strong," said Dixon, the standard bearer for the new 2.2-liter, turbocharged V-6 Honda engine in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. "We've tried to be consistent, maybe not take as many risks as we should, but also emphasize qualifying in a good position and making the most of it. "All around as a team, with our package, I don't think we're there yet. But I think once we get a few things figured out on the car and the engine package, I think we're going to be strong. If we can put points in the bag at the moment, try and gain on that later in the year, we should be in a good position."The runner-up finishes moved Dixon into ninth on the all-time Indy car list with 28. A look at Dixon's results to begin the past few seasons:2011: St. Petersburg (start 3, finish 16); Barber (start 3, finish 2); Long Beach (start 8, finish 18); Sao Paulo (start 3, finish 12). Season - Third (-65 points)2010: Sao Paulo (start 7, finish 6); St. Petersburg (start 3, finish 18); Barber (start 5, finish 2); Long Beach (start 8, finish 4). Season - Third (-55 points)
2009: St. Petersburg (start 8, finish 16); Long Beach (start 6, finish 15); Kansas (start 4, finish 1); Indianapolis (start 5, finish 6). Season - Second (-11 points)"Points championships are so tough," Dixon continued. "(We're trying to) sort of taking out a page of Dario (Franchitti's) notebook from the last few years and being consistent. He hasn't won as many races as some others, but he's always there on a bad day and a good day. We have to try to do the same thing."In '08, Dixon kicked off the season with a victory from the pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and followed with a victory (Indianapolis 500) and a pair of third-place finishes in three of the next four races. In that title-winning season, he recorded six victories and 14 top-five finishes in 17 races. That's the consistency he mentioned.Dixon started third of 26 entries at Barber Motorsports Park and believed he had the car to beat."Good points for the first two races, but definitely disappointed with today's result," he said.Quick work on his first service stop on Lap 26 enabled Dixon to jump from third to first when race leader Graham Rahal pitted, and led under the next round of pit stops on Lap 47. He regained the point from Lap 50-65 - being pursued closely by Power throughout) before making his final stop for 18.5 gallons of E85 and tires.
"I believe the middle stop and the last stop we had a bit of a fumble on one of the tires," Dixon noted. "The middle one took a lot longer. Tires are done normally about the same time as fuel. You feel the fuel pull out and you're still on the air jack."On the out lap I would say Will gained two or three seconds just because he wasn't in traffic. Then I think they were maybe a little bit quicker on their stop as well. Between that and trying to get out of the pits behind (E.J.) Viso, I'd say we lost three or four seconds in that, which gave Will the advantage." Power, who pitted for the third and final time in the 90-lpa race on the 2.38-mile road course on Lap 65 and inherited the lead when Castroneves drove down pit lane three laps later, made the most of any advantage on a course that favors the front-runner."If you get out front, it's very hard to stay close," Dixon continued. "There's so many high-speed corners. Eventually you burn the tires off. To have a dominant race and a car I think definitely if we were out front at the end would have led to the same thing and pulled away from Will.
"It's frustrating when you're in a scenario like that and you don't collect on the win. I'd say the last two years that was probably kind of as good as we were going to get."Speaking of good, Power credited his crew and race strategist Tim Cindric with flawless execution on a humid afternoon."Good stops and good strategy calls put me out in clean air so we could use our speed," said Power, who picked up his 16th Indy car victory to tie the late Dan Wheldon. "We slowly passed one by one. The strategy was perfect. The stops were perfect. We were quick when we needed to be, put ourselves in a position to win."I think that was the key to the race, keeping out of traffic, pitting at the right times."2. Inside the box score - Barber Motorsports Park: Some numbers to note following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the second of 16 events of the 2012 IZOD Indy Car Series season.2 - Points separating IZOD IndyCar Series point leader Helio Castroneves (86) and Scott Dixon (84) after two events.3 - Wins for Team Penske at Barber Motorsports Park. The team is the only team to win an IZOD IndyCar Series event there…Second place finishes by Scott Dixon at Barber Motorsports Park since 2010.4 - IZOD IndyCar Series drivers who have finished in the top-10 in every race at Barber Motorsports Park: Will Power, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti.5 - Drivers who have finished in the top 10 in each of the first two IZOD IndyCar Series events: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Will Power, James Hinchcliffe and Simon Pagenaud.7 - Different teams represented in the top-10 finishers in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standings.8 - Different teams represented in the top-10 finishers in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.10 - Consecutive races led by Will Power dating to 2011…Positions gained by Victor Carbone in the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama, most of any driver.13 - Positions gained by Oriol Servia, most of any driver in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.16 - Consecutive top-five starts in Firestone Indy Lights for Esteban Guerrieri, a series record. Guerrieri has never started outside the top-five in his Firestone Indy Lights.56 - Laps led by Helio Castroneves over the first two events in 2012. Castroneves led 34 total laps in 2011.75 - Laps led by Scott Dixon over the first two events in 2012. Dixon led 76 laps through the first seven races in 2011.1:09.8529 - Lap time set by Will Power in Q1 at Barber. The lap is the fastest lap recorded by an IZOD IndyCar Series car at Barber122 - Degrees, Fahrenheit. The hottest track temperature recorded during the race.124 - Laps led by Will Power of the 270 total laps raced over the last three seasons at Barber Motorsports Park. (46 percent).183 - Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to 2001 CART race in Portland.52,879 - Fans who attended the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Race Day, according to information released by Zoom Motorsports, the event promoter.81,378 - Fans who attended the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama event weekend, according to information released by Zoom Motorsports, the event promoter.3. Derby contender draws interest in INDYCAR Paddock: Helio Castroneves may have a favorite horse on the first Saturday in May.Take Charge Indy won the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 - the same day that Castroneves won the pole position for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Both driver and thoroughbred were carrying No. 3 and they also shared blue and white colors. Castroneves finished third in the race April 1.Sent off at 8-1 odds, Take Charge Indy earned a spot in the 138th Kentucky Derby on May 5. Two weeks later, Castroneves will attempt to win the pole for the Indianapolis 500. On May 27, he'll attempt to take charge of the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 and join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners."I'm still in shock over winning the race,'' owner Chuck Sandford told The Associated Press. "We knew we had a nice, top-bred colt who just screams 'racehorse.' But someday, he's just got to get out and do it.''The 3-year-old colt was sired by A.P. Indy, and Take Charge was the dam.Team owner A.J. Foyt, who has owned thoroughbreds through the years and annually attends the Kentucky Derby said: "I'm not much of a gambler anymore, but I might place a bet on him. I like the name."4. Another solid finish for Pagenaud, 'Matey': Through preseason development, Simon Pagenaud grew close to his new Dallara chassis -- so much so that the Schmidt-Hamilton HP Motorsports driver has referred to the car as "Matey."Why? Because he said it sounds like a good friend.It's been a positive relationship so far. Pagenaud finished fifth in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama - his second top-six finish in as many starts."P5 today is a really good result," said Pagenaud, who is fifth in the championship standings. "We got caught up in qualifying, so we didn't get a good lap in. But I tell you today this car was probably the fastest one out there. It's good to see that we can produce such a great job with a one-car team and to fight with the Penske and Ganassi teams."I have to thank the crew for doing great pit stops. They say you can't pass around here, but I have a few tricks I'm not going to tell anyone. It was a fun, physical race."A week earlier, in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Pagenaud qualified sixth on the 1.8-mile street circuit. But an engine change at the behest of Honda Performance Development engineers following the initial practice session (unapproved under INDYCAR rules) cost him 10 spots on the starting grid. Still, he weaved to a sixth-place finish after 100 laps."With a sixth and fifth in two starts, I feel really confident going into Long Beach," Pagenaud added.Matey was the seventh chassis produced by Dallara Automobili at its Italy facility - the chassis number that team co-owner Sam Schmidt requested - and picked up Dec. 15. It's also on Twitter at @Matey77.***The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15 on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be telecast live at 3:30 p.m. (ET) by NBC Sports Network. The IMS Radio Network will also carry the race live on XM Channel 94 and Sirius 212. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15. It will be telecast by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (ET) on April 19. NBC Sports Network's coverage of the Grand Prix of Alabama will be telecast at 5 p.m. on April 5.