DIXON WINS FIRST RACE UNDER UNIFIED INDYCAR SERIES BANNER
HOMESTEAD, FLA., March 29, 2008 - Scott Dixon won the first race under the unified IndyCar Series banner, taking the checkered flag in the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway 0.5828 seconds ahead of Marco Andretti.
Dixon, who started from the pole in the race that featured 25 starters, took the lead on a Lap 197 restart when race leader Tony Kanaan slowed due to a damage right front tire. Dixon held off Andretti to claim his 11th career IndyCar Series victory.
It was a reversal of fortune for Dixon, who finished second in the 2007 IndyCar Series championship after running out of fuel while leading on the final lap of the season finale at Chicagoland. This time, Dixon was in position to take advantage of someone else's misfortune.
Kanaan was in the lead when Ernesto Viso's car spun on Lap 193. The right front corner of Kanaan's car made contact with Viso's car, damaging the car. Kanaan remained on the track during the caution period, but couldn't race at speed when the green flag dropped. Kanaan finished eighth.
Andretti, who led a race-high 85 laps, finished second, tying his career-best mark on an oval.
Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon finished third. Wheldon, who had won the previous three events at Homestead-Miami, surged to the front from the 22nd starting position after crashing during qualifying March 28.
Helio Castroneves and Ed Carpenter rounded out the top five. Carpenter advanced 19 positions during the race after starting in the back due to a technical violation during qualifying.
Medical update: Jay Howard has been cleared to drive by the Indy Racing League medical staff. Roth Racing has repaired the #24 car that was damaged during last night's PEAK Motor Oil Pole Qualfying, and the car will start the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300.
Richard Clark is a VIP guest of the Indy Racing League this weekend. Clark was the winner of a six-week contest on indycar.com to design the 2008 Honda Accord Safety Car. His design was selected by a panel of Indianapolis 500 legends including Johnny Rutherford, who drives the Safety Car, Al Unser, Al Unser Jr. and Rick Mears.
RICHARD CLARK: "It's more than I ever expected; what an honor. It kind of chokes you up. It looks unbelievable in person. I definitely wanted to make it look fast while parked and at speed. And when it's out there on the track, it has to be fairly simple. If it's too overdone, you lose the details and the effect."
JOHNNY RUTHERFORD: "This particular design just jumped at you. That's what the judges picked; we didn't talk with each other and were unanimous with our selection. It just flowed and said racing and Honda."
The GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 features 25 starters, the most cars on the starting grid for a season opener since 2002, the first year the IndyCar Series opened the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV have been moved to the rear of the field after their times were disallowed when the #20 and #2 cars failed post-qualifying technical inspection. Carpenter will start 24th and Foyt will start 25th.
Conquest Racing made a change to their pit crew. Barry Scott will serve as the jackman for the #36 car driven by Enrique Bernoldi.
Dale Coyne Racing announced Z-Line Designs will be the primary sponsor on the #18 car driven by Bruno Junqueira. Z-Line Designs is one of the world's leaders in manufacturing of office and home entertainment furniture. The company is looking to expand its market base through aggressive motorsports involvement.
DALE COYNE (Owner, Dale Coyne Racing): "We are pleased to have Z-Line Designs enter the world of IndyCar racing in this very exciting new season of racing. Jim Sexton and all of his people have been very enthusiastic about the merged series, and this sponsorship is proof that things are going in the right direction for our sport and its valued partners."
JIM SEXTON (CEO, Z-Line Designs): "This is a great opportunity to get into this prestigious level of racing in the U.S. We have seen great results from our previous motorsports marketing efforts, and with the merger, IndyCar racing is the place to be."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 18 The Z-Line Car): "It is good to have a quality sponsor like Z-Line involved. We hope to make this an exciting year for everyone."
*** GAINSCO AUTO INSURANCE INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES:
* This is Scott Dixon's 11th career IndyCar Series victory and his first since winning at Infineon in August 2007. Dixon also won at Homestead-Miami in 2003.
* This is Target Chip Ganassi Racing's 17th victory in the IndyCar Series. The team has won the last three events at Homestead-Miami Speedway and four of the eight events contested at the track.
* Marco Andretti's second-place finish tied his career-best finish on an oval. In 2007, he finished second at Iowa and Michigan. He also finished second at Indianapolis in 2006.
* Dan Wheldon advanced 19 positions from the start of the race to his third-place finish. Wheldon had won the previous three events at Homestead-Miami, two with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and one with Andretti Green Racing.
* Oriol Servia was the highest finishing driver among the nine drivers transitioning into the IndyCar Series. Servia started 14th and finished 12th.
* Ed Carpenter tied his career-best finish of fifth (Chicagoland 2006).
* The average speed of 171.248 is the fastest race in IndyCar Series history at Homestead-Miami. The previous fastest was 167.730 in 2006. The race also had the fewest caution laps (24) of any race at Homestead-Miami. The previous low was 32 in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2007.
NOTABLE FIRSTS IN THE UNIFIED INDYCAR SERIES:
* First PEAK Motor Oil Pole in unified IndyCar Series - Scott Dixon
* First race leader in unified IndyCar Series - Scott Dixon
* First pass for the lead in unified IndyCar Series - Tony Kanaan passed Dixon on backstrech on Lap 13.
* First caution in unified IndyCar Series - Lap 18 for debris.
* First car out of race in unified IndyCar Series - Will Power on Lap 24.
* First race winner in unified IndyCar Series - Scott Dixon
* Fastest transitioning driver in official practice for first race in the unified IndyCar Series - Justin Wilson, 16th
* First transitioning driver to qualify in the unified IndyCar Series - Justin Wilson at 6:32 p.m. on March 28
* Fastest transitioning driver in qualifying for the first race in the unified IndyCar Series - Franck Perera, 15th
GAINSCO AUTO INSURANCE INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished first): "It was one of those races where we didn't exactly have the speed all the time, or things weren't really going our way, but we still came out on top. If you can have races like that, where you have a bad day, or a day where you don't think you're at your best, and you still come out on top, that's a great way to take some points away from others and hopefully it works for the rest of the season."
"We had a couple of stints there where it was nearly nonstop without a yellow. I thought there were going to be a ton early on. In our team meeting, we were sort of scheduling for quite a few stops early on, but that just didn't come. I think everybody was really using their heads. The guys who came in from Champ Car were fantastic. They were giving everybody room and they drove a great clean race."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE, finished second): "We started out pretty good. We really focused on the race car balance, starting in the offseason when we were testing. I think my engineer and I did a very good job to come up with a setup that works at a place like this - the race car, rather than the qualifying car. The guys were awesome in the pits. The tires were unbelievable. Honda was awesome. It was a good day."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, finished fourth): "The Team Penske car handled really well tonight, but we just didn't have the speed that the top few guys had. Thankfully, we were able to stay out of trouble and bring home a solid fourth-place finish. The championship is our ultimate goal this year, and we were able to score some valuable points today. We'll look to build on that next week in St. Petersburg when we try for three in a row there."
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished third): "To be honest, it probably wasn't me. The car was obviously very good. The other people on the track were very respectful. I think they knew I had a fast car. To tell you the truth, I think every time I came up behind somebody and they knew I was quicker, they made it comfortable for me to pass. From that standpoint, I certainly appreciate what they did. From a car standpoint, we were phenomenal on a long run, but on the short run we weren't quite as quick as we'd like perhaps. We seemed to just lose a little bit on that last start. To finish third after a difficult day yesterday, I think these are good points in the bank."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, finished fifth): "It was a tough one. That was one of the weirdest Homestead races we've had. It seemed like everyone's pace was really dropping off towards the end of a run on tires. It made it really difficult to keep your car good from beginning to end. By the end of the race, I was pretty happy with the balance I had with the car from start to finish of the run."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol, finished seventh): "We had a fifth-place finish in the bag and got robbed on the last restart. We went through this in the driver's meeting and I don't know exactly how it happened, but it killed our race. We really had a good rhythm going today and the car was strong, but we didn't get the points we deserved for it.
"The guys did the right things with the car all day and as a team, I think we really performed well tonight, especially in the latter half of the race. I thought I drove a pretty good race and the team gave me everything I needed to compete with the big teams. We'll take this finish and head out looking to do better next weekend."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, finished eighth): "I've been around a long time, and the race is not finished until the checkered flag. This was a misfortune - yes. But, how many times have I won races because some other guy was unlucky? With 10 laps to go I was looking around and I was thinking, ‘This looks too easy.'
"When somebody spins and he's doing 230 miles an hour, you're like, ‘Where should I go?' I slowed down. He was on the bottom, so I went to the top. Then, all of a sudden he started to go to the top and I was trying to go to the bottom, so there was nothing I could do about it.
"The way I look at it, this is right where I finished here in 2004, and we know the way that year turned out."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Vision Racing, finished ninth): "Starting the race from the back obviously made it a lot more difficult to try and get around the slow cars and the cars I've never raced with before, but once we got going the car wasn't too bad. It lacked a little overall downforce and it wasn't great, but we managed to come out of here with a top 10. So we'll learn from this and work on getting better and moving up as the season continues."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, finished sixth): "What a frustrating night. I thought our Motorola car was going to be a strong car, but we just never found a setup that was going to be able to compete like we wanted it to. We need to put this behind us and move on so we can be ready for next week."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard, finished 10th): "This finish is about what we expected in the Delphi National Guard car coming into the day. We knew we would have work to do during the race. We had a few problems and the car was really loose during some of the early parts of the race and that hurt us most. I could run really well by myself, but it got loose in traffic and I couldn't keep it behind other cars. Everybody at Panther is glad to head to St. Pete with a top-10 finish, and our car has always been really good there, but we will be fighting for more positions because the guys from Champ Car will be running up front there."
BRIAN BARNHART (President Operations and Competition, Indy Racing League): "It wasn't what I expected in terms of how we have raced here. It seemed people were more comfortable up top and faster up top. That's not what we have done around here the last two or three years. The preferred line in the past, especially when you come up to pass or lap people, has been to tell them to go high and I want to run the bottom and everyone fought for the bottom of the race track. Today, everybody was asking for the slower cars to be at the bottom but they seemed more comfortable and faster up top. It kind of changed the dynamic of the race a little bit from that standpoint. The first 50 laps was a struggle with some guys working their handling and getting up to speed. I think everybody eventua lly did a good job. It's a steep learning curve obviously and most of them got the better part of 200 laps in and did a good job all evening long."
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 6 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The 2008 schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, features races on ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, all broadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with ESPN. All races in 2008 will be telecast in High Definition.