IRL: Watkins Glen: Race report

DIXON REPEATS AT WATKINS GLEN WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Sunday, June 4, 2006 -- Scott Dixon remained clear of trouble to win the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix for the second consecutive year at Watkins Glen International. The 2003 IndyCar Series...

DIXON REPEATS AT WATKINS GLEN

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Sunday, June 4, 2006 -- Scott Dixon remained clear of trouble to win the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix for the second consecutive year at Watkins Glen International. The 2003 IndyCar Series champion became the first repeat winner in five IndyCar Series road/street races over the past 14 months.

"I think it was a day where we were pretty confident throughout the race, knowing that we had the speed to do it," said Dixon, who started fourth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone and finished 2.3311 seconds ahead of Vitor Meira in the timed event. "It's just if the strategy was going to work out for us."

The strategy came into play as fog and wet conditions plagued the 11-turn, 3.37-mile road course. Steady rain began to fall with about 10 minutes left in the window (2 hours). Contenders began to pit for Firestone Firehawk rain tires that they used to start the race while others, including Dixon and Meira, decided to keep the slicks and risk slipping and sliding on the deteriorating circuit.

"With the slicks, as soon as they cool off when you drive through a little bit of a puddle, they lose so much grip," said Dixon, who claimed the point from Buddy Rice after a restart. "I think it is hard for all of us to know how hard you can go into that next corner because you're not really sure if the car is going to do it."

On a Lap 53 white flag restart (after Tomas Scheckter, who had been running in fourth, spun off course on Lap 51), Dixon had to gauge how hard to push on the slippery surface without sliding off.

"It was extremely tough because of the conditions," he said. "It just started raining and it was hard to tell how hard to push it because you have 10-15 guys behind you that will push as hard. I think we had enough of a jump to hold them off. We definitely have a bit of luck here at Watkins Glen."

Meira, driving the No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, advanced six positions for the fifth runner-up spot of his career. Ryan Briscoe, filling the seat of Buddy Lazier in the No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, placed third and Rice was fourth.

"I'm happy because of where we finished," Meira said. "I'm happy for the team, for the league, for everybody. Finishing second would get old if I felt like we deserved to win, but that's not the case today. We fought hard to finish second here.

"With the team and all the work they're doing, as soon as we get everything put together the right way, we will (win). There's no doubt about it."

WATKINS GLEN INDY GRAND PRIX POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is Scott Dixon's first win of 2006 and the fifth win of his IndyCar Series career. His last win came at Watkins Glen in September 2005. Dixon is the first IndyCar Series driver to repeat on a road course.

* This is the eighth win for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The team's last victory was with Dan Wheldon at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March.

* Vitor Meira finished second for the fifth time in his IndyCar Series career. His last runner-up finish was at Kentucky in August 2005.

* Ryan Briscoe finished third, his career-best finish in the IndyCar Series. It is Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's first top-five finish in the IndyCar Series since team co-owner finished third at Nazareth in 2001. Briscoe also finished third in the Grand American Road Racing Series Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen on June 3 with teammates Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor.

* Felipe Giaffone finished fifth, his best-finish since he finished third at Motegi in 2003. It is A.J. Foyt Racing's first top-five finish since Airton Dare won at Kansas in 2002.

* Ed Carpenter finished a career-best sixth. It is Vision Racing's best finish in the IndyCar Series.

WATKINS GLEN INDY GRAND PRIX POST-RACE QUOTES:

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 16th): (About accident with Eddie Cheever): "(It was) blatant, absolutely blatant. If (Eddie Cheever) didn't know I was there, he shouldn't be in the series." (Will you speak with Eddie Cheever?): "There won't be discussion. There's nothing talk about. The NYSE car was contender for a win. It's just a bummer. The car felt so good. One more pit stop and we would have been right there. I did have the fastest car on the race track."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Cheever Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 17th): "I had just gone out on a new set of tires and the track is very slippery. I was doing everything I could to keep the car straight. I never had any problem with anyone getting by. It was just bad circumstances."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, winner Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix): "We definitely have a bit of luck here at Watkins Glen. I think all year, the Target team with Dan and I, have had fast cars, we just weren't able to put it all together. We've won two races this year. We're back in winner's circle and the Energizer car is looking cool. We're just happy." (About the final restart): "It was extremely tough, because of the conditions. It just started raining and it was hard to tell how hard to push it because you have 10-15 guys behind you that will push as hard. I think we had enough of a jump to hold them off."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second): "I'm happy because of where we finished. I'm happy for the team, for the league, for everybody. I guess that this is what the Indy Racing League is. Everybody did a great job because the conditions were pretty harsh out there. With the team and all the work they're doing, as soon as we get everything put together the right way, we will (win). There's no doubt about it."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "I couldn't be happier. To be so close to a victory at the end was amazing. Just coming here for the one-off deal, I couldn't have asked for a better race. It was absolutely a good move (to stick with slicks). Luckily the rain stayed away for those last couple laps, and it turned out to be a great decision. What is so exciting, apart from just the third-place finish, is to do it with this group of guys for this one race. It is great to see the team so excited. This was the race I missed out on last year, and I was so excited to be here. It was great to come back with a good result today. A podium finish is a good result. We worked hard this weekend, and it came to us. I think coming into it, I was going to be happy with a 10th-place result, but today the track was real tricky. When the rain came down, I thought for sure we had to come in for wets. It's amazing how this track dries, and it really turned out for the best for us. We kept moving forward in the race, and eventually, I couldn't see through the visor because it was so dirty. At times, the tires were overheating, and at the end of the race, there were still wet patches on the track. Basically, I think we had a car that was running at fast speeds all day during the race. We were on track moving forward and passing cars. It was an awesome job from everyone on the team."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "I've got to thank the safety crew for getting us back out. After that spin, they had that big yellow, everybody checked up, and I spun off. That was pretty dumb on my part. I didn't see the yellow or anything, so I went shooting off. I kept it running, but I'm glad those guys pushed me because we stayed on the lead lap. We just started fighting back, and the team made the right call on strategy. I could see the rain coming. I wish the last yellow didn't come out, because it's still kind of wet, and I think we're in better shape. For us to come back from this and get to where we're at, I think it's a pretty good day for us."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, finished fifth): "We really needed that. We weren't expecting a top-five finish today. When the rain came, we took a chance and stayed out. The guys on rain tires got by, but the last lap the track was good for the dry tires and got those spots back. I'm happy for the team, and hopefully we can take that momentum into Texas. I'm really excited."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished sixth): "It was a long day. We weren't really quick. It was a tough race. We put the slicks on and it was still wet. That was some of the hardest driving I've had to do. I spun once but managed to keep it going. I mean, at first there, when we put the slicks on, it was still wet. It just turned into a survival and who could keep their car going straight. We kept ours going straight and caught some breaks there at the end and got our wets on before some other guys and picked up a couple more spots. It wasn't a pretty one, but we'll take it."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished seventh): "It was really tough out there today because the conditions changed so often from wet to dry. The Marlboro Team Penske car ran really well all day, but a problem with engaging the fuel nozzle on our last pit stop forced us to make another stop a lap later for more fuel. This kept us from being able to go for the win, but I'm fairly pleased with what we were able to do at the end of the race because we picked up enough points to stay in first place in the championship. Now we'll just turn our attention to Texas, and hopefully we'll be able to put together another solid run."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "We managed to get to the finish today. It was a 50-50 situation with our car and the rain tires. We were good for a little bit, and then the guys on slicks had a little bit of an advantage as the track dried out. It was a good effort the Argent Honda crew today. (Eddie) Cheever took me out on the restart, and that was what put us a lap down. It is unfortunate and it is silly. There was no point in doing something so desperate on a restart, but he did it. I don't know why he was trying to pass there. The Firestone rain tires were good for our car today. They didn't fall off with our car, and I felt I was able to close in on a lot of guys in the wet. We weren't the faster car out there but I think we would have done better if we hadn't been taken out. I think we might be able to be up there with Buddy in fourth place. Buddy did a great job today. It was a very testing day from a driver's standpoint. The conditions were constantly changing. It is very difficult to get a lap back on a road course, but our guys got me back on the lead lap and we finished eighth."

SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone, finished ninth): "Wow! What a crazy day. These are days you always hear about and hope you never have. I don't think you could have any more change of conditions between wet when we started to a drying track to eventually a dry track and back to being wet. Certain parts of the track were damp, certain parts were not and it was a matter of just constantly catching the car. I really slid around quite a lot. We were certainly set up for the rain. We would have been better if it had rained longer or at the end of the race. We would have been in better shape. Even in the dry, I just really didn't have a lot of grip and slid around a lot. I'm not sure why that was but today was a day when you just really needed to persevere. The Delphi guys gave me great pit stops. We just needed to bring home points and that's what we were able to do."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 10th): "Our race was OK. I mean we were good when it was drying up a bit. And you know, it felt really good, but it was just so odd you know with the weather and the strategy. And people moving forward and backwards. If they had gone green at the beginning when it went yellow like three or four times I could pull maybe three or four seconds a lap. And I wanted it to stay green, but it didn't. So everyone did a great job at Vision. We finished in the top 10, so I'm happy with that. It messed everything up because I went back out. Some people had wets on, and they were going to the front. It was pretty hard to keep them behind."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 12th): "Other than one corner on one lap we had a good race (Hornish Jr. spun on lap 12). Unfortunately I stalled when I tried to get going again and we went down a lap. After that, we spent the rest of the race trying to get the lap back, but we just couldn't get it done. We should've finished better than we did today, but that's how it goes sometimes. Hopefully some day I'll get this road course thing down. It's unfortunate I spun because Marlboro Team Penske really gave me a good car today and we should've been in the top-five."

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Bombardier 500k at 9 p.m. (EDT) on June 10 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Liberty Challenge on July 1 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. ESPN2's coverage of the Corning will be televised at 2 p.m. (EDT) on June 8.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Airton Daré , Scott Dixon , Wayne Taylor , Dan Wheldon , Max Angelelli , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing