Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Dixon hopes to remain master of Mid-Ohio
2. Hunter-Reay's car to carry Pelotonia paint scheme
3. Saavedra aiming for another AFS/Andretti championship
1. Dixon hopes to remain master of Mid-Ohio: There's a simple explanation as to why Scott Dixon has been successful on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course: "It seems to suit my style," the New Zealander said.
Dixon has won three of the five IZOD IndyCar Series races on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course, and he'll need another strong effort in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car this weekend in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio to close the gap in the series championship chase.
Dixon trails front-runner Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport by 51 points - equivalent to earning the pole and winning the race - in the standings. In between are Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves (-23 points) and Will Power (-26).
"There are definitely enough points on the table and we have to make the most of it," said Dixon, who has an average starting position of 4.2 and finishing position of 2.2 over the five Mid-Ohio races. "It's been a good track for us in the past, and we'd like that to continue because there are still four races left."
Dixon, who has a victory at Belle Isle and three runner-up finishes to highlights his season so far, has retained fourth in the standings following the past two races even though they didn't yield the results the two-time series titlist had wanted after qualifying fifth at Toronto and eighth at Edmonton.
A mechanical issue on the Exhibition Place circuit relegated him to 25th place, and Dixon started 18th on the City Centre Airport circuit in Edmonton because of a 10-grid spot penalty incurred for using the sixth Honda engine of the season.
"It's tough with the engine penalty," said Dixon, who made up eight positions in the 75-lap race. "We've let it slip in the past few weeks, which has been frustrating."
Dixon joined 23 other competitors July 26 in testing on the Mid-Ohio course, where his new car-engine package was almost 3 seconds quicker than his 2011 fastest race lap "without red red tires" during the session.
"It has a great flow to it," he said of why he enjoys the course. "It's similar to how we've done well at older American tracks - the layouts, the undulations, the longer corners seem to suit my style, which is always nice."
A comparable circuit is Watkins Glen International, where Dixon also has had a great deal of success - consecutive victories from 2005-07 and an average finish of 4.16 in the six races through 2010.
"(Mid-Ohio is) a great little track and great summer weekend atmosphere," he said. "Hopefully, we have a strong weekend."
F 2. Hunter-Reay's car to carry Pelotonia paint scheme: Ryan Hunter-Reay's No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet will carry a special paint scheme during this weekend's event at Mid-Ohio that represents Pelotonia and the 28 million people battling cancer.
Pelotonia is a bicycle ride headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, that was founded in 2008. This year's ride will take place Aug. 10-12, with funds raised going toward cancer research. In its first three years, Pelotonia has attracted more than 8,300 riders from 38 states and raised $25.4 million.
"I'm happy to carry the Pelotonia colors at Mid-Ohio and to support their efforts to raise awareness and funds to help cancer research in Ohio," Hunter-Reay said. "The fight against cancer is something I've been involved with for several years with my own charity, Racing for Cancer, and as a global envoy to Livestrong. I hope the unique look of the No. 28 DHL/ Sun Drop car this weekend will help their cause."
Hunter-Reay, a global envoy for LIVESTRONG and co-founder of Racing for Cancer, chose to run the No. 28 on his Andretti Autosport car to honor those fighting cancer worldwide.
All of the funds Pelotonia raises this year will directly support research conducted at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
3. Saavedra aiming for another AFS/Andretti championship: It wasn't long ago that AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport was the team to beat in Firestone Indy Lights.
JR Hildebrand had four wins and five pole positions en route to the 2009 championship for the team, and the previous season Raphael Matos took the title. After watching Sam Schmidt Motorsports take the titles in 2010 and 2011, Sebastian Saavedra has a chance to put the partnership of AFS Racing and Andretti Autosport at the top again.
After spending most of 2011 with Conquest Racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Saavedra returned to Firestone Indy Lights with AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport as the full-time driver of the No. 27 car and the team's official test and reserve driver for its IZOD IndyCar Series program.
He jumped out to a strong start with three consecutive podium finishes and a win at Barber Motorsports Park. He's currently second in the standings, 27 points behind Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Esteban Guerrieri, heading into the Grand Prix of Trois Rivieres in Quebec this weekend.
"It's been a very consistent season for the No. 27 AFS/AA car," Saavedra said. "I knew it wasn't going to be an easy championship with the Sam Schmidt Motorsports cars being as strong as they've been the last couple years. I've never stopped giving my 100 percent out there."
Guerrieri won the rain-soaked race in 2011, leading from flag-to-flag and setting the outright lap record at 58.5076 seconds in qualifying.
Saavedra missed last season's event while competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series, so this will be his first time competing at Trois Rivieres. However, data from his team and word from fellow drivers has him prepared for the 60-lap, 91.8-mile race.
"As with most street courses, it is a bumpy place with lots of walls," Saavedra said. "People describe it as a faster Toronto. By this, I can already understand that a fast time will come from taking risks and getting very close to the walls. Around a street course, the walls are the driver's worst enemies, and it's very easy to make a mistake and end your day early. Precision and knowing your limits are important keys to having a successful weekend."
With some ground to make up to catch Guerrieri, plus the pressure of a one-point difference between him and third place Tristan Vautier, Saavedra will have his hands full on the 1.53-mile temporary street circuit. But with the confidence of an experienced driver and backing from a team that has been to the top before, the goal is clear.
"I want to bring back the AFS/AA glory years after winning in '08 and '09," he said. "It's of great importance to the bosses to bring a championship home, as it is great motivation for the whole Andretti Autosport family."
Source: IZOD IndyCar Series