Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines: 1. Dixon closes gap with back-to-back wins 2. Pecorari delivers Team KMA's first victory 3. Manning's second consecutive ninth place builds momentum 4. Drivers reap post-race rewards 1. Dixon...
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. Dixon closes gap with back-to-back wins
2. Pecorari delivers Team KMA's first victory
3. Manning's second consecutive ninth place builds momentum
4. Drivers reap post-race rewards
1. Dixon closes gap with back-to-back wins: Scott Dixon has been the chaser through 11 of the 17-races that make up the 2007 IndyCar Series season.
"Yeah, it's getting old," the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver sid.
He's not complaining, mind you. Being one of the horses in the stretch run (three ovals and three road/street courses) is better than being an also-ran. After consecutive victories in seven days, Dixon has cut Dario Franchitti's point lead from 75 to 34 with the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance on July 22 completing a string of five consecutive weekends of racing.
"It is tough," Dixon said after leading Franchitti across the line to win the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. "But, you know, that's how championships are won. I'm sure Dario is trying as hard as he possibly can. Those guys are just super consistent. If they're not winning, they're either second or third. That's going to be very tough to beat."
But not insurmountable, Dixon adds. Consistency has been Franchitti's calling card -- 10 consecutive top-five finishes, punctuated by three victories -- in the No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing. He started next to Dixon on the front row at Nashville, led the first 88 laps and decided to play it safe after a Lap 195 restart on the congested 1.33-mile concrete oval.
"To come back and repeat at both (Watkins Glen and Nashville) is fantastic," said Dixon, the first repeat winner and first winner from the pole in the seven years of IndyCar Series racing at Nashville Superspeedway. "I think it is good for our momentum. You could tell even after Watkins Glen, we rolled off the truck, the car was fast in every session. I think we led every session of the weekend.
"It's just what we need to do. You can see it in the guys, too. The pits stops are much smoother. It's like clockwork at the moment. We've got to try to carry that through to the end."
The first step is the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car circuit, where Dixon was quick at an Open Test in mid-June. The consecutive victories -- and nine top-five finishes overall -- have bolstered the confidence of the entire No. 9 car crew.
"Things just seem to roll," said Dixon, who will celebrate his 27th birthday on race day. "To be honest, things seem to come a little easier for me. I think it is a confidence level. Coming into these two races that were back to back, we've proven ourselves (at Nashville) last year, so you do come into a race weekend with more confidence. That's really all I can put it down to.
Everything is just flying. Everybody is working together really well. When you win, everybody's happier."
2. Pecorari delivers Team KMA's first victory: One of the first things to fall into place when Jon Lewis and Ingo Strackerjan formed Team KMA to compete in the Indy Pro Series for 2007 was the availability of Robbie Pecorari.
It didn't take much conversation to sign the young driver, who last year competed in the Champ Car Atlantic series. An up-and-down season reached its zenith July 14 at Nashville Superspeedway when Pecorari held on after a restart with two laps left to win the Sunbelt Rentals 100.
It was the fifth top-five finish for the team, which might be a novice in the Indy Pro Series but an experienced motorsports unit. Team KMA is a result of the joint effort of Formula BMW teams Atlantic Racing and American Spirit Racing.
"It's a tremendous series," Lewis said. "I knew we were going to have a lot of work ahead of us to be able to compete. I'm overjoyed that we've been able to come on as strong as we have so quickly. A lot of that has to do with our crew, our engineer and Robbie behind the wheel.
"To be able to come up and compete on a level playing field and to win this race against some really strong teams with a lot of experience is a credit to this team."
Pecorari, starting a season-high third on the grid for the 77-lap race on the 1.33-mile oval, led early in the race (for the first time this season) and regained it for good when leader Alex Lloyd pitted to replace a damaged nose assembly just before the Lap 75 restart.
"We've seen a steady increase in the performance of our team," Lewis said. "We expected to be competitive on the road courses. We thought we would struggle more than we are right now on the ovals. I think this is just the start of a lot of great things to come."
Lewis had a similar assessment of Pecorari, 20, of Aston, Pa.
"A couple of years ago I witnessed Robbie driving in the final race of the Formula Mazda Series," Lewis said. "We were starting our Formula BMW team for the next year and he caught my eye. Unfortunately, another team had already contracted him to drive. This winter, when we were looking for the driver we wanted to put in our car and heard that he was available, we immediately called him up and starting talking. Over a few weeks we were able to put together a program.
"He is a tremendous driver who has such bright future ahead of him."
Pecorari kicked off the season with three consecutive top-10 finishes, and holding the hand-painted Gibson guitar annually awarded to the winner made the hours of toil worth it. Now he just has to take lessons.
"I wished we could have done some winter testing," he said. "We started a little behind, but as you can see we've caught up. The series is great. The cars are fun to drive and the competition is stronger than ever."
3. Manning's second consecutive ninth place builds momentum: For the initial 34 laps of the Firestone Indy 200, Darren Manning was mired in 17th position on the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway oval.
He jumped to 12th after the first round of pit stops, where he settled in through Lap 76, when he overtook Tomas Scheckter's No. 2 Vision Racing car and Vitor Meira's No. 4 Delphi Panther Racing entry. Again, Manning maintained the position and gained one spot to ninth on Lap 105.
That's where the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Dallara/Honda/Firestone for A.J. Foyt Racing finished. It was the second consecutive ninth place for Manning and the best finish for the Foyt team at Nashville since 10th in the inaugural 2001 race.
"I'm really pleased," he said. "We threw a setup on it for qualifying, which turned out good but we didn't know how it'd be on the long run. It was really good. I could stay close to the car ahead and take advantage of a mistake. The ABC Supply crew gave me good stops."
4. Drivers reap post-race rewards: For the second week in a row, Scott Dixon reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event.
As the Firestone Indy 200 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.
Dixon also collected the AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award and its $10,000 prize, and the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 145 of the race. Vitor Meira claimed the Lincoln Electric Hard Charger Award and its $2,000 prize for being the race leader who started furthest back.
As part of his victory in the Sunbelt Rentals 100, Robbie Pecorari was presented with a Forum timepiece 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.
Alex Lloyd collected the SWE Pole Award and its $1,000 prize.
The next IndyCar Series event is the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance at 1:30 p.m. on July 22 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be televised live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Mid-Ohio 100 on July 22 at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be telecast at 5:30 p.m. on July 26. ESPN2's coverage of the Sunbelt Rentals 100 will be televised by ESPN2 at 5 p.m. on July 18.