Target's Manning Fourth at Pikes Peak; Equals Best Career Finish for Third Time Fountain, Colorado, August 22nd, 2004-- Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Darren Manning had their hands full this weekend trying to defend the...
Target's Manning Fourth at Pikes Peak; Equals Best Career Finish for Third Time
Fountain, Colorado, August 22nd, 2004-- Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Darren Manning had their hands full this weekend trying to defend the team's win at Pike Peak in 2003 but the results weren't going to come out of thin air. It was going to take a lot of effort and a bit of luck.
While both Target Toyota/G Forces started the weekend off in the top three fastest cars for the first practice, rain washed out Saturday's qualifying session for the Honda Indy 225 at the one mile oval, setting the starting order by combined practice times and putting Darren Manning in eighth spot and defending race winner Scott Dixon tenth on the grid as a result.
While the Indycars' normally aspirated 3.0-liter engines' output was reduced by the thin air at 5,357 feet above sea level, it also reduced aerodynamic drag on the cars and was expected to promote more passing opportunities and plenty of race action on track. The racecars' handling was going to be big factor.
Manning was in fifth place when he came into the pits for his first stop on lap 82, when a problem with the vent during the refueling process set the no.10 Toyota / G-Force back to 13th spot and a lap down from the leaders. The Target team took a gamble on fuel strategy and decided not to pit with the leaders under the second caution of the day in order to get a lap back. That would pay off for the team as a third caution was waved (Sam Hornish Jr. accident) on lap 158, just in time for Manning to bring the no.10 car in to the pits for fuel and new tires a few laps later. On the restart, Manning came out in sixth spot and battled his way up to cross the finish line in fourth place.
"I've very pleased with this fourth place finish because we worked so hard to get it," says Manning, who equaled his best IndyCar career finish for the third time (Japan, Nashville and Pikes Peak). "We got a yellow just at the right time and by getting our lap back, I was able to ride the momentum through to the end. The team gave me a good car that I was able to adjust though out the stint and that was really important as my Toyota/ G Force stayed strong for the whole run and not just on fresh tires. It was a nice battle on that last restart right near the end, but the best part is that this Target team just never gave up."
For Target teammate Scott Dixon, things didn't go quite as planned as it was evident early on that the defending race winner was having trouble with the handling of his Toyota/ G Force. By lap 38, the no.1 car had fallen two laps back and the team decided to bring him in for an early pit stop to try to help by taking some front wing out. Dixon tried as best he could to drive the Target car to the finish, but by his 93rd lap it became evident that he could go no further.
"The car was just really loose," says Dixon who was credited with a 20th place finish. "We made a lot of changes throughout the weekend and kept trying different things but we just never seemed to make any gains at all. Just before the start of the race we took a chance and tried to go in another direction but that didn't end up working in our favor unfortunately. This is really disappointing for the whole team. It's been a difficult year for this Target team but while we keep plugging away and giving it our best, we just can't seem to catch a break. We'll regroup this week and I guess the key will be to get back to basics for Nazareth."
Victory at the Pikes Peak belonged to Dario Franchitti who, from his fourth place starting position, took over the lead on lap 162 and never looked back to win his second IndyCar Series race of the season. Adrian Fernandez was second and Dan Wheldon finshed in third spot. Championship points leader, Tony Kanaan (463 points) finished fifth just behind Darren Manning, extending his lead in the standings to 68 points over driver Buddy Rice, who spun on the backstretch on lap 1 of the 225-lap event and made contact with the inside wall.
The Target drivers retain their positions in the standings, only swapping positions as Manning moves into 10th place with 268 points and Scott Dixon slips into 11th spot with 255 points.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing will return to race action in this coming weekend as they head back east to Nazareth, Pennsylvania for a final run on the unique 1 mile Nazareth Speedway for the Firestone 225, the thirteenth race of the 16-race IndyCar season. Target fans can tune in to watch the Nazareth race on ABC at 2:00 pm (EDT) Sunday, August 29th or they can listen in on the IMS Radio Network. Throughout the 2004 season, fans are invited to follow the team's progress by logging onto their official website at target.com/racing for news, features, photos and much more.