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FUMES #447

May 28, 2008

Danica Mania overshadows a brilliant performance by Scott Dixon.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Twenty-seven-year-old Scott Dixon was the fastest man all month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara, and last Sunday he delivered the biggest win of his career, as he won the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 with an average speed of 143.567 mph. Dixon led 115 of 200 laps, including the last 29, to capture the victory. “What a day, man. I just couldn't believe it. You just thought something was going to go wrong. I’ve got to thank my wife, for sure. She’s put up with my moods. What a day. We seemed to have a good car. We just had to hold on to it and stay ahead of those guys on restarts. You’re just a sitting duck. There were so many yellows. It was so hard to get into a rhythm. I was trying to save fuel, and I was trying to see how the car was in traffic. We were trying to work on it the whole time. I think we had a little too much drag in it. But coming toward the end, as long as we got a good jump on those guys, I don't think anyone was going to get past us. The Target guys did a fantastic job.”

It's too bad Dixon's brilliant performance was overshadowed by the stick-and-ball media's infatuation with Danica Mania, and her dust-up with Ryan Briscoe while exiting the pits. Danica storming down the pit lane was the main feature of every national newscast that mentioned the race. Yes, she does get coverage and it's great for the sport, but Dixon deserved better for his (and his team's) superb effort.

The caution-filled race was not one of the better Indianapolis 500s, that's for sure, as on-track incidents disturbed the flow of the race over the entire (and lengthy) afternoon, but under green flag conditions the racing was intense and hard fought, living up to the advanced billing of a unified open-wheel series returning to prominence.

Dixon's front row teammate, Dan Wheldon (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi D/H/F) also ran up front during the race (the Ganassi cars led 145 laps), but he encountered trouble in his rear suspension and faded to 12th at the end. "My issue all day was with the right rear steer in the car," said Wheldon. "It was OK in the first few stints, but it seemed to get worse and worse as the race went on. It was very difficult." Wheldon had this to say about his teammate Dixon: "I am really happy for him. He has been really quick in all of the races leading into this. He perhaps hasn't won as many as he deserved up to now, but he's on a roll right now, and it is great for him and the team that he did so well. The team worked so hard for both cars. Only one can win, and he was the deserving one."

After Wheldon faded, Vitor Meira (No. 4 Panther Racing National Guard Delphi D/H/F) drove the wheels off his car in pursuit of Dixon to finish an exuberant second place. An example of the tenacity of Meira's drive was when he took the lead on Lap 160 following a restart with a breathtaking move that split Dixon and Ed Carpenter (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing D/H/F) going into Turn 1. Meira led 11 laps before Dixon regained the lead for good on Lap 172.

Marco Andretti (No. 26 Andretti Green Racing Indiana Jones Presented by Blockbuster D/H/F) finished a strong third, leading 15 laps and setting the race's fastest lap on Lap 161 with a speed of 224.037 mph. But his race was eventful for another reason as his aggressive move to pass teammate Tony Kanaan (No. 11 AGR Team 7-Eleven D/H/F) sent the Brazilian off line and into a spin, which also collected Sarah Fisher (No. 67 SFR D/H/F). Andretti's team also guessed wrong on the set-up for the race's last run to the checkered flag, costing Marco a chance to at least challenge Meira for second place, but then again, no one was going to catch Dixon last Sunday.

With his big win, Dixon takes over the IndyCar Series points lead. He now has 12 career victories in the IndyCar Series, and it was his second win of the season, having won at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier in the year. Dixon is the first native of New Zealand to win the Indianapolis 500, and his 115 laps led was the most laps led by a race winner since Juan Pablo Montoya led 167 laps in 2000. This is the third Indianapolis 500 victory for Chip Ganassi. He is tied with Mike Boyle, Leader Card (Bob Wilkie) and Pat Patrick for the third-most "500" wins in history. Roger Penske has 14, and Lou Moore has five. Ganassi won in 2000 with Juan Pablo Montoya and was co-owner with Pat Patrick of the 1989 winner driven by Emerson Fittipaldi.

Scott Dixon is one of the most gifted drivers in the world and certainly one of the leading lights in the IndyCar Series. We congratulate Scott and his entire Ganassi Racing team for a superb effort last Sunday. I now expect Scott to go on and capture the IndyCar title as the past three Indianapolis 500 winners – Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr. and Dario Franchitti – all went on to win the IndyCar Series championship in the same season.
(Jim Haines/IRL)
Scott Dixon celebrates his first Indianapolis 500 win with his wife, Emma, and the Ganassi Racing brain trust. Click here to see a gallery of photos from Indy by Jim Haines, Dana Garrett, Chris Jones, Dan Helrigel, Steve Snoddy and Dave Edelstein.


Publisher's Note: In our continuing series celebrating the "Golden Era" of American racing history, here is another image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, IN, 1966. Graham Hill in Victory Lane after winning the Indianapolis 500.



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