IRL: Dixon, G-Force steal one from Dallara

Scott Dixon was not supposed to win Sunday's IndyCar Series opener at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. His Toyota engine was excellent, his Firestone tires were the same ones being used by all of the other teams, but his Panoz G-Force chassis was the wrong one to have on the flat, 1.5 mile oval.

Just ask the top eight qualifiers for the race who were all piloting Dallaras. Just ask Grandpa Foyt who went so far as switch A.J. IV from a G- Force to a Dallara after the rookie got his first taste of big-league concrete at Homestead during pre-season testing.

Race winner Scott Dixon accepts trophy.
Photo by McQueeney.

No, Scott Dixon was not supposed to win in Miami. As Garfield the cat once said, however, "It's amazing what one can do when one doesn't know what one can't do."

"We knew we were going to struggle at Homestead," said Dixon. "For some reason I think we just struggled for grip there and downforce with the G-Force. It was going to be a hard weekend, but we're just happy that we came out of there with the win and with some great points because I think that was going to be the hardest race for that chassis."

Things did not look good for Dixon at the start from his vantage point on the outside of the sixth row. "I think we would have liked to have qualified a lot higher than where we did," he lamented. "We missed on the balance a little and just had too much understeer. It was disappointing after qualifying.

"We'd worked on the race setup all through the race weekend and we knew that we were going to have a pretty good car for that, but I guess in some sense we were a little surprised with how good the car was in the race."

"Good," of course, is a relative term. A quick review of the in-car cameras used during the race seems to show that Dixon was fighting like a cornered badger to get his G-Force through the turns, while the Dallara drivers appeared to be out for a leisurely Sunday cruise. It is this angle that illustrates the true significance of Dixon's victory.

He was able to keep his car on the ragged edge for the entire race and pull out a win on a circuit where the chassis was clearly at a disadvantage. The 50 points he earned as a result are certainly going to loom large once the series hits the superspeedways like Fontana where the Toyota/G-Force package looked to be dominant during preseason testing.

Scott Dixon.
Photo by McQueeney.

It may be a little too early to say that Dixon is in the catbird seat for the championship, but there is no question that he and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team are breathing a little easier heading into the second event.

"We've got a lot of work here at Team Target to do before the race in Phoenix," Dixon said. "We've been struggling a little with time just with the G-Force not coming as complete as we would've liked. I think we've had to do a lot of in-house stuff to the car. This will give the guys a little bit of time to catch up.

"We're not going to do any testing, there are a lot of teams doing some testing in Phoenix this week, but we're not going to do that. Our car works very well in Phoenix, in the Test in the West we finished up second there."

While Dixon is undoubtedly very happy to have snatched a win out from under the noses of the Dallaras on one of "their" tracks, he is primarily focused on stealing a much bigger jewel. "We set goals at the start of the year and what we wanted to do was go for the championship.

I think we can win many more races this year. I just think we have a good package. We're going to really shine I think at the 500 as well so that would be definitely one race that the team will be charging for."