CHAMPCAR/CART: Reigning champ wins in the big cars

DETROIT (May 7, 2001) - Sunday's victory in the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix at Nazareth Speedway by reigning Dayton Indy Lights champion Scott Dixon brought graduates of the "Official Development Series" of CART further into record-setting territory...

DETROIT (May 7, 2001) - Sunday's victory in the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix at Nazareth Speedway by reigning Dayton Indy Lights champion Scott Dixon brought graduates of the "Official Development Series" of CART further into record-setting territory in FedEx Championship Series competition.

In addition to becoming the youngest race winner in major league open-wheel auto racing history, Dixon's victory gives Indy Lights grads a record-setting, three-for-three win streak to open the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season. The 20-year-old Nazareth victor joins fellow winners Cristiano da Matta (Mexico) and Helio Castroneves (Long Beach) this season in eclipsing the previous record of two wins to open the 1999 season by 1995 Indy Lights champion Greg Moore (Miami) and Adrian Fernandez (Japan). The overall record win streak by Indy Lights grads in CART's big show is five races that was set last year by da Matta, the 1998 Indy Lights champion, Castroneves and 1990 Indy Lights champ Paul Tracy (Chicago through Mid-Ohio) and in 1997 by Tracy and Moore (Nazareth through Detroit).

Dixon's win in his third CART start represented the earliest a Lights grad has ever posted a victory after moving up to Champ Car competition, exceeding 1994 Indy Lights Rookie of the Year Andre Ribeiro, who won at New Hampshire in 1995 in his 15th start. Dixon and Ribeiro are the only Indy Lights grads to win a CART Champ Car race in their rookie seasons.

Dixon was also the first rookie to win in his CART oval track debut, and he credits his experience in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship as a positive factor in the early success.

"Winning my first race on an oval was an amazing accomplishment," Dixon said. "All my previous experience on ovals has been from the Dayton Indy Lights Championship. Before I raced in Indy Lights, I did not have any oval experience - this is why the Indy Lights series is so important on being prepared for the CART Champ Car series. The experience I gained in Lights has definitely helped with my performance at an oval."

Overall, Dixon's win is the 43rd for an Indy Lights product in CART Champ Car competition dating back to the first win for a series grad by Tracy in the 1993 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. That equates to about one win every three races.

The most wins in a single CART Champ Car season by Indy Lights grads was nine last year, a record that may be on course to fall this season. The eight regular FedEx Championship Series competitors who are Indy Lights alumni include Dixon, da Matta, Castroneves, Tracy, Fernandez, 1993 champion Bryan Herta, 1997 champion Tony Kanaan and 1999 champion Oriol Servia. This competitive groups needs to produce just seven more victories to break the record in the remainder of the season that will include at least 17 more races.


Dixon out-dueled Kenny Brack for his win Sunday while Tracy crossed the line in third place. Afterwards, the veteran Canadian, who won his Indy Lights title a full 10 years before Dixon claimed the crown last season, gave high marks to the latest Indy Lights driver to win in CART and the series that helped launch their careers.

"I think it's great that Scott won being from Indy Lights," Tracy said after the race. "It's frustrating to me to see the Indy Lights series struggling with entries. It's proven over and over again that it's the best series. Not many guys have gotten to the top by bypassing Lights. It's a good formula."

The recent 10-car Dayton Indy Lights field for the third round of the championship last month at Texas Motor Speedway was the smallest in recent years, but the series has rebounded from similar lows in the past. A 10-car field contested the 1991 Indy Lights race at the Meadowlands only to the see the series rally and more than double its entry less than 18 months later with the introduction of a new race car for the 1993 season. Similar boosts are expected when the fourth-generation Indy Lights race car is debuted next season.


In what has become an annual tradition by Dayton Indy Lights teams, an unofficial group test will be held at the Milwaukee Mile next Monday and Tuesday in preparation for Round Four of the series that will be held on the legendary short oval next month.

All teams and drivers entered in the series plan on participating in the test, including two-time Milwaukee winner (1998 & '99) and current Dayton Indy Lights Championship points leader Derek Higgins (Mexpro/ Lola). The 100-lap Milwaukee race, Sunday, June 3, will be telecast on ESPN2 in same-day coverage at 7 p.m. ET.


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Derek Higgins , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , Cristiano da Matta