IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-07-09

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines: 1. Watkins Glen suits Dixon's style 2. Lloyd, Cunningham build momentum at The Glen 3. Drivers reap post-race rewards 1. Watkins Glen suits Dixon's style: Watkins Glen International's mix of...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. Watkins Glen suits Dixon's style
2. Lloyd, Cunningham build momentum at The Glen
3. Drivers reap post-race rewards

1. Watkins Glen suits Dixon's style: Watkins Glen International's mix of high-speed corners and dramatic elevation changes remind Scott Dixon most of the 12-turn Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Victoria, Australia.

"As long as you get a line on the corners perfectly, you're going to get a fast lap," the New Zealander said, referencing both facilities. "The reward out of those places --because they are technical track and so long -- is putting a whole lap together. You can go around there all day long, getting one corner right and two or three others wrong and you never get a (competitive) time. I think it's combining it where you get the joy out of it."

The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver put together close to 60 such trips on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn circuit to win the Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix, joining Graham Hill as winners of three consecutive major open-wheel races at The Glen.

Dixon took the lead after polesitter Helio Castroneves crashed on Lap 20 while leading, lost it after he pitted and was slowed by mid-field traffic, then regained it after a fast pit stop on Lap 45. He held off Sam H ornish Jr., Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti over the final 14 laps.

"Things just seemed to play our way," said Dixon, who led Hornish across the line by 6.2591 seconds. "The last 10 laps I was waiting for something to break."

This victory could be the break Dixon's been waiting and hoping for in the championship race. Three of the remaining seven races are on road courses, and the next event -- at the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway -- Dixon is the defending champion. Dixon's been consistent (some would call it unlucky) with four runner-up finishes, just as he was during the '03 title run. Dixon's first victory of the season and seventh of his IndyCar Series career shaved 18 points off of Franchitti's advantage in the standings (to 47).

"I like to keep it quiet and just get on with my job and let the results speak for themselves," Dixon said. "This year we've had situations where we've come close. When you have four second-place finishes so far this season, it's tough. You can't keep doing that so often. But it's definitely good that now we've come up with the win, especially in the second half of the season. We've got to step up and keep the pressure on AGR and Dario."

Franchitti's No. 27 Canadian Club Honda-powered Dallara posted the ninth top-five finish in the 10 races.

"Second was what we were really hoping for," said the Andretti Green Racing driver, the 2005 race winner at Nashville. "We lost a little bit of time in the pits and that was the difference between second and third. I'm not unhappy with the finish. This was a very, very tough race, maybe the toughest. I'm just going to keep battling Dixon week in and week out. He's the strongest guy in the points right now."

***

2. Lloyd, Cunningham build momentum at The Glen: Indy Pro Series doubleheader race weekends can be a boon to drivers attempting to move up in the standings.

With a victory and runner-up finish in the Corning Twin 100s at Watkins Glen International, Wade Cunningham recorded momentum-building results as the series heads to the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway this week. The 2005 series champion is the first Indy Pro Series driver to win in three consecutive seasons.

"I think we're finally on track to where we should be with the (AFS Racing) team," said Cunningham, the 2006 pole winner at Nashville. "From Iowa to Watkins Glen, we've really been consistent. We've been in the top two both times as well as two poles. The guys are feeling pretty good and we know the car is fast now. I think I can say that I'm driving pretty good.

"There's no reason we shouldn't be challenging Alex at Nashville. It's a difficult track to pass on so I think qualifying is going to be very, very important."

The solid finishes at the 3.37-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen International circuit weren't enough, though, to make much headway on Lloyd, who placed third in Race 1 and won Race 2. Cunningham is fourth in the standings. Super Aguri Panther Racing's Hideki Mutoh, runner-up in Race 1, finished sixth in the back end of the doubleheader, giving Lloyd a 138-point cushion.

But with a challenging mix of ovals and road courses left on the schedule, Lloyd isn't ready to be fitted for a crown just yet. On the road/street courses that host doubleheaders, there also are pitfalls that could significantly impact a season-long effort.

"I'll never say we've got the championship until somebody hands me that trophy and I have both hands on it," said points leader Alex Lloyd, who tied Mark Taylor's 2003 series record with his seventh victory of the season. "You never know what's going to happen in racing.

"When (Race 2 front-row starter) Bobby Wilson spun out (on Lap 1), I had the flash of the championship being thrown away there and then. Luckily, we got around it. Doubleheader weekends like this weekend, we could have a problem in race one and really suffer. You just never know.

"But with us winning, it's put us in a very strong position and really hard to lose now. I think if we have a good next couple of weekends, Nashville and Mid Ohio, and we can keep the gap we've got, I'll be confident that we've got it in the bag.

"But until we get through these three back to back weekends, I'm not counting any chickens. I'm going to try to keep trying to win races and do my best. And when somebody says you've got the championship, then we'll celebrate."

***

3. Drivers reap post-race rewards: Scott Dixon reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event.

As the Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix race winner, Dixon was presented an Automatic Gran Data timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2007 and will present a $100,000 timepiece to the IndyCar Series champion.

Helio Castroneves collected the AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award and its $10,000 prize, while Dixon won the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leadingLap 43 (mile 144) of the race. Dan Wheldon claimed the Lincoln Electric Hard Charger Award and its $2,000 prize for being the race leader who started furthest back.

As part of their victories in the Corning Twin 100s, Wade Cunningham and Alex Lloyd were each presented with Forum timepieces from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the Indy Pro Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each Indy Pro Series event in 2007 and a $25,000 timepiece to the Indy Pro Series champion.

Wade Cunningham collected the SWE Pole Award and its $1,000 prize.

***

The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the Firestone Indy 200 at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on July 14 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be televised live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Sunbelt Rentals 100 on July 14 at Nashville Superspeedwat. The race will be televised by ESPN2 at 5 p.m. on July 18. ESPN2's coverage of the Corning Twin 100s will be broadcast at 5:30 p.m. on July 12.

-credit: irl

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Wade Cunningham , Bobby Wilson , Graham Hill , Hideki Mutoh , Phillip Island
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing