IRL: Watkins Glen: Panoz race report

Dixon's Panoz races to Watkins Glen Victory Lane WATKINS GLEN - Forty races without a victory can seem like 40 years to any team or driver, but Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Panoz and Toyota got the monkey off their back this...

Dixon's Panoz races to Watkins Glen Victory Lane

WATKINS GLEN - Forty races without a victory can seem like 40 years to any team or driver, but Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Panoz and Toyota got the monkey off their back this afternoon in the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix presented by Argent Mortgage.

The 60-lap thriller, held on the 3.37-mile configuration of this seminal road course in the Finger Lakes area of New York, saw Dixon start the contest in fourth place with his #9 Target Panoz/Toyota/Firestone racer, get pushed back to fifth on the first lap yet recover to take third as the field settled in.

Dixon joined the lead pack in deciding not to pit for fuel on the first full course yellow (lap 6) and stretched his methanol to the 21st lap. "It was a hard race," Dixon acknowledged, "but my Panoz was quick and fast. I was able to pass cars when I needed to and had the handling and power I needed throughout the race. The car was consistent and very, very close on balance. All we needed," Dixon confirmed, "was a small wing change on the first stop and we didn't change a thing after that."

Dixon led the most laps, 25, earned the Firestone Performance Award and had the fastest lap of the race at 131.375mph on the 38th of 60 tours. "We knew we had to have good fuel strategy and we know this track is all about momentum. It's good to come back to the road courses," where he began his racing career.

"We knew we had the car for this track, which is very difficult and also rewarding when you put a good lap together. Watkins Glen is a true drivers' track; everybody loves it. The win makes the season so much better; sometimes we thought we would never come back." 2003 IRL champion Dixon's margin of victory was an artificial 0.6540 seconds (over 2004 champ Tony Kanaan) as the race ended under caution.

"It's fantastic to see the Ganassi team back in Victory Circle," said an elated Nicholas Alcock, Panoz chief aerodynamicist. "Scott drove like a true champion overtaking Helio Castroneves on that second restart (lap 30) when he passed him in Turn 1."

Target teammate Giorgio Pantano, making his second IRL start in the #10 Target Panoz/Toyota finished fourth after starting second. The Italian had a difficult first pit stop, coming in too hot and running over his air hose, necessitating a drive-through penalty.

"Giorgio had a fabulous drive after his penalty," Alcock declared. "Watching him go from 18th to fourth was like taking a class. All credit," Alcock continued, "to the Elan Motorsports Technology guys back in Georgia for remaining focused all year long. It's great for Panoz to be back in Victory Circle again."

Despite a difficult day that saw her finish 16th in the #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda, Danica Patrick emerged with the 2005 Bombardier Rookie of the Year award. "It's a great honor to be both Indy 500 and IRL IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year. Now my next goal is to win a race," Patrick said.. "We have won three poles this year and that is pretty good for a rookie."

The 2005 finale for the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series' tenth season of competition takes place October 16th on the two-mile California Speedway oval. The Toyota Indy 400 airs live at 3:30PM EDT on ESPN.

-emt-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Giorgio Pantano , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi , Danica Patrick
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing