Dixon Continues Title March With Kentucky Victory
Scott Dixon and his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team continued to steamroll their IndyCar Series opposition Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, winning a record-tying sixth race Saturday night as his major championship rival - Team Penske's Helio Castroneves - gambled on an alternative fuel strategy and lost, running out of ethanol on the last lap. Dixon swept past while exiting Turn Four to take the checkers in a "role reversal" of the final race of 2007, when it was Dixon running out of fuel on the last lap at Chicagoland Speedway and Dario Franchitti passing for the race win and '07 series championship.
Dixon's win was his sixth of 2008, tying the IndyCar Series record set by teammate Dan Wheldon in his 2005 championship-winning season while driving for Andretti Green Racing.
Castroneves coasted across the finish line in second to keep his championship hopes alive with three races remaining. Marco Andretti led 38 laps prior to finishing third, gaining two positions in the drivers' championship. Panther Racing's Vitor Meira led five laps and ran in the lead pack throughout the night, but fell back on the last round of pit stops to finish fourth.
Driveline problems, including transmission failure and broken axles, sidelined several competitors in the race, and a Honda Indy V-8 engine aboard Enrique Bernoldi's Conquest Racing machine was destroyed by foreign matter in the oil system during practice on Friday. But 26 drivers completed another 10,977 miles during the course of the two-day event without failure. So far this season, the IndyCar field has completed 195,135 miles without a single race-day failure, a record for Honda since the manufacturer started supplying the entire IndyCar field in 2006.
Behind the lead quartet, Wheldon and Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan put on perhaps the best show of the evening, running side-by-side for more than two dozen laps from Lap 150 - 175. The battle came to an end when Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay appeared to touch, with both dropping back as a result. Wheldon went on to finish fifth. Kanaan and Hunter-Reay finished eighth and ninth, respectively, with 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice rounding out the top 10 for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
The IndyCar Series now takes a final, one-week break before resuming for the final three consecutive race weekends, starting with IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway in northern California on August 24.
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda)
"I think that when it's your year, things just seem to go your way - like they did [July 12] at Nashville and here tonight. There was some good racing with Marco [Andretti] tonight. Then it was crazy at the end. Helio [Castroneves] made it very hard to pass, but then he slowed going into [Turn] Three. It definitely was a role reversal from Chicago last year [when Dixon ran out of fuel on the last lap and was passed by Dario Franchitti for the race win and championship]. Dario called me in Victory Circle and I told him the [passing] view was definitely better! This is a fantastic day for us. Our championship lead is pretty healthy, but anything can happen in a race and there are still three to go."
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda)
"I really don't know what I have to do [to win a race] this year. Honestly. We took a big gamble [with the fuel strategy]. I tried everything, the team tried everything, but it seems like second place is our destiny this year. The fuel light came on with a couple of laps to go, so we came up just a little bit short [of fuel]. But we're not giving up. We're working really, really hard and there are still three races to go. Let's see what happens at [the next race at] Sonoma."
Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on tonight's race:
"It was another impressive performance by Scott Dixon and the Target Chip Ganassi team, capping another nearly perfect weekend for them. This really does seem to be their year. There was a good crowd here tonight, and I think they saw an exciting race. Now, our HPD race team gets a welcome, one-week break before the final three races on consecutive weekends."