Kansas: Honda race report

Dixon Rebounds With Kansas Victory After a tough start to 2009, defending IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon responded in true championship fashion Sunday at Kansas Speedway, taking command over the last 20 laps to win the Road Runner Turbo ...

Dixon Rebounds With Kansas Victory

After a tough start to 2009, defending IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon responded in true championship fashion Sunday at Kansas Speedway, taking command over the last 20 laps to win the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, the first oval round of the '09 IndyCar Series season.

Starting on the outside of the second row in fourth, Dixon ran in the lead pack throughout the race, leading 134 of the day's 200 laps despite variable weather conditions that included high wind gusts and a near-constant threat of rain. Dixon took the lead for the fifth and final time following the last round of pit stops, emerging with a lead that would stretch to as much as a 1.5 seconds over the trailing Helio Castroneves before taking the checkers with a margin of just over seven-tenths of a second.

For Castroneves, second was a minor victory in itself as the Team Penske driver was fortunate to be able to continue racing after early contact with the rapidly slowing car of Vitor Meira on Lap 15. Castroneves lost both his front wings in the collision, but rapid repairs by his Team Penske crew not only kept him on the lead lap, but in contention for the victory.

In a challenging weekend of continuing changing weather conditions, the Honda HI9R Indy V-8 engine used by all 22 starting drivers and teams continued its unprecedented string of race-day reliability. As in every IndyCar Series since June of 2007, there once again were no engine-related race retirements in today's 200 lap race on the high-banked 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval.

Behind the lead pair, Tony Kanaan led a resurgent Andretti Green Racing organization home with a third- place finish to take the early-season lead in the championship points standings; while teammates Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti battled over fifth place in the closing laps, with Patrick prevailing. Hideki Mutoh also closed strong, recovering from a mid-race pit lane penalty to finish eighth.

St. Petersburg race winner Ryan Briscoe led 53 laps, second only to Dixon, but was caught out while pitting from the lead when the caution flag came out on Lap 153 for a single-car crash that ended Dario Franchitti's race. Losing track position as a result, Briscoe finished fourth. Pole qualifier Graham Rahal lost pace mid-race in the changing weather conditions, but then improved in the final laps to finish seventh, just ahead of Mutoh.

The 2009 IndyCar Series now heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the "Month of May" at the historic 2.5-mile oval, and the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24. On-track activities begin at the "Brickyard" on Tuesday, May 6 with Rookie Orientation Practice, with Pole Day qualifying set for Saturday, May 9.

Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, 1st win of 2009, 17th career IndyCar Series win, 11th on an oval: "I'm just so happy for the whole team. The start of the year was frustrating for everyone, through no fault of their own. They've all worked so hard these last few weeks. Today our car was fantastic. We had it 'trimmed to win' and it definitely worked for us at the end. Everyone did their part. Now we're looking forward to going back to Indy as the defending [race] champion and going for two-in-a-row."

Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) Started 21st, finished 2nd: "The wind was very strong out there, which made it a challenge, but it was the same challenge for everyone. Scott [Dixon] and all those [Andretti Green Racing] cars were very strong today. It's so competitive out there, any of the top four or five could have won today once they got out in front and in clean air at the end."

Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "Due to the weather conditions, we started off today not sure if we'd be able to run the full [race] distance. Not only did the race run the entire 200 laps, but it was an exciting, very competitive event until Scott Dixon finally took charge over the final 20 laps. Our congratulations to Scott and his Target Chip Ganassi team on their second win of the season. It was great to get in our first oval IndyCar race of the season. Now we head to Indianapolis and the biggest challenge of the year for our associates at Honda Performance Development and our technical partner Ilmor. We're ready for another great "Month of May" at Indy."

-credit: honda racing

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Series INDYCAR