DIXON, PENSKE'S DUEL FOR SHORT OVAL SUPREMACY IN RICHMOND - There's never a sure thing when it comes to picking a winner in any IndyCar Series race, but the odds would definitely favor anyone casting their lot with either Scott Dixon or Marlboro...
DIXON, PENSKE'S DUEL FOR SHORT OVAL SUPREMACY IN RICHMOND - There's never a sure thing when it comes to picking a winner in any IndyCar Series race, but the odds would definitely favor anyone casting their lot with either Scott Dixon or Marlboro Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves in this Saturday's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway.
DIXON.... - Few drivers have ever been as dominant on the short ovals as Scott Dixon and his Target Toyota were a year ago. In his seven career IRL short oval races, Dixon has won two, placed second in two and was leading each of the other three when he was beset by mechanical problems. Included among his triumphs last year was a record-setting performance in Richmond, where he became the first IndyCar Series driver ever to lead wire-to-wire as he led all 206 laps from the pole.
The 2003 Indy Car Series champion's short oval prowess extends back to his CART days when he became the youngest driver to win a race in major open-wheel racing history when he took the checkered flag at Nazareth at 20 years, 9 months of age. He also won his first short oval race in Chicago in Indy Lights competition just days after his 19th birthday.
HORNISH.... - If Dixon isn't the choice in Richmond this weekend, few would argue with the pre-race selection of Sam Hornish Jr. In three career starts at RIR, Hornish has finished first, second and fourth (a year ago). His 2002 victory at Richmond helped propel him to his second IndyCar Series championship. In addition, Hornish topped the time charts in last week's open test on the short oval at the Milwaukee Mile.
CASTRONEVES.... - While Helio Castroneves can't boast the series championships that his young Toyota adversaries can, they would be hard-pressed to better his record on the short ovals. In 11 short oval starts in 2002 and 2003, the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion has three victories, four seconds (including last year at Richmond) and a third.
THE PENSKE FACTOR... - When assessing any short-oval event, the "Penske factor" has to be considered. Over the last two seasons, Marlboro Team Penske has had at least one car finish in the top three in EVERY one of the 11 short oval events run. The team's finishing record over that span reads an amazing six victories, seven seconds and five thirds.
RICHMOND 2003 REVISITED - The 2003 SunTrust Indy Challenge was a showplace for Toyota-powered cars with Scott Dixon leading a Toyota sweep of the top three spots. Dixon led all 206 laps of the rain-shortened event with Helio Castroneves finishing second and Gil de Ferran in third. Current Toyota driver Sam Hornish Jr. placed fourth.
FIVE TOYOTAS IN TOP NINE IN POINTS - Five Toyota drivers rank in the top nine in points heading into Richmond. Helio Castroneves leads the way in third place. A trio of Toyota-powered drivers rank fifth, sixth and seventh in Darren Manning, Scott Dixon and Sam Hornish, Jr. Tora Takagi (Pioneer Toyota) rounds out the Toyota top-10 contingent in ninth-place in the championship.
ELSEWHERE - While the IndyCars were enjoying a rare week off on Father's Day, this past weekend was busy with Toyota and TRD activity elsewhere. In Portland, 2002 Toyota Atlantic Champion (TAC) Jon Fogarty swept a TAC double-header. While Fogarty was leading every lap of the two races, Danica Patrick was making the headlines. She became the first woman ever to lead the drivers' championship points standing after a second-place finish on Saturday, and then became just the second woman ever to win a pole for a U.S. open-wheel racing series event when she took the top spot for Sunday's event.
On Sunday, Scott Pruett and Max Papis teamed to win the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in a Lexus for the CompUSA Ganassi Racing team in Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series action. It was the duo's second consecutive victory, extending both their lead in the Driver's Championship, as well as Ganassi's lead in the team points race.
Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "We're optimistic heading into Richmond. Our teams and drivers really seem to like the shorter ovals and we had a very good test there earlier in the month. Richmond is a terrific facility and it's a sight to behold when the IndyCars circle that three-quarter mile track under the lights. It's definitely one of the highlights of the season."