Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon won a dramatic last lap duel with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves to take first place in the Meijer 300 IndyCar Series race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday (August 9th). Fuel strategy was the difference-maker...
Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon won a dramatic last lap duel with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves to take first place in the Meijer 300 IndyCar Series race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday (August 9th).
Fuel strategy was the difference-maker as the Indy Racing League championship points leader pursued and then caught Castroneves at the last moment on the 200th lap.
Castroneves team cannily pulled their driver into the pits on Lap 143, and then plodded around the track at a steady, just fast-enough pace, as they sought to milk the tank dry to the finish.
The strategy almost worked, and would have if Dixon, freshly refueled on a late-race pitstop, had not charged on the final lap to the lead to win the contest ahead of a slowing Castroneves.
"I knew we had a good car but it was going to be tough," to catch Castroneves, said Dixon afterwards. "Helio made it tough, and he was trying hard, but the No. 9 car was fastest at the end."
"I didn't know if he had enough fuel that I could catch him on the last corner," said Dixon, who collected a record-tying sixth win for the season. "I think Helio just ran out of gas."
Castroneves admitted he couldn't carry off the upset, saying, "I came up just a little bit short on fuel."
"I was hoping a yellow would come out that we could stay in front," he said ruefully from the dais during the postrace interviews.
"It seems like every time I finish second, Scott (Dixon) finishes first."
The No. 3 car slowed noticeably from Turn 4 to the finish as Dixon sped past on the top of the track toward the checkered flag.
"Penske had the right strategy but came up half a lap shy," said Dixon's team owner Chip Ganassi as he beamed from the winner's circle.
Andretti Green Racing's Marco Andretti finished third, and silenced many of the critics that have him a less-competitive racer on the oval configuration.
"Andretti Green had a tough couple of races," he said, "but I hope this shows people we are still in the game...will still be helping each other and competing."
Andretti consistently carried speed through the corners into close-quarters racing over the 1.5 mile oval ahead of fourth-place Vitor Meira of Panther Racing.
Dixon teammate Dan Wheldon finished fifth, ahead of Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter and Castroneves' teammate Ryan Briscoe.
Tony Kanaan finished eighth.
Rahal Letterman's Ryan Hunter Reay finished ninth despite a spin on the pitlane on Lap 84.
Fan favorites Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick touched on Lap 81, though neither suffered any damage from the light contact.
Patrick went on to finish eleventh while Fisher came home in fifteenth place.
The championship race continues in favor of Scott Dixon who now stands 78 points to the better of second-place Castroneves.
The IndyCar Series rests for one week before resuming its season at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway on August 24th in the California wine country.