Dixon Wins at Milwaukee Mile
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) -- Scott Dixon finds it a little bit surreal to be leading the IndyCar Series standings after his latest victory.
The start of his season made the reigning series champion look like anything but a contender, with finishes of 16th and 15th in the street races at St. Petersburg and Long Beach.
"We gave up our two bad races in the first two races of the season," Dixon said Sunday after winning the A.J. Foyt 225 at the Milwaukee Mile -- his second win in his last three starts -- and taking the top spot in the standings.
"We can't afford too many more like that," the New Zealander added. "It's just too competitive out there. There's six, eight people who can win this championship."
Thanks to a fast car and a whole lot of patience in heavy traffic, Dixon will go to Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night with a four-point lead over both Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, who finished second and third, respectively, on the busy one-mile oval.
Less than 100 laps from the end of the race, Dixon found himself behind both Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Franchitti and defending race winner Briscoe, as well as having to deal with lots of fast traffic.
"I knew we had a better car than both of them," Dixon said. "It was just a question of getting past them. And, at this place, it's tough enough to be out there by yourself. It's really tough to be out there with all that traffic."
But Dixon, who said he likes to be "quietly aggressive" on the track, waited for the right opportunities.
Franchitti took the lead during a series of green flag pit stops just past the halfway point. The 2007 series champion, back in IndyCar after an aborted shot at NASCAR last year, built leads of more than 2 seconds over Briscoe and Dixon before he got held up in traffic and both of his competitors got past him on lap 154.
A duel between those two ensued the rest of the way, with Dixon finally getting past the Penske Racing entry when the lapped car of Tomas Scheckter briefly held up Briscoe 25 laps from the end.
It turned out to be a three-wide pass, with Scheckter against the wall, Briscoe in the middle and Dixon fearlessly zooming by underneath them both as the trio drove toward the third turn.
"I was working on Briscoe for a good majority of the race," Dixon said. "He and I and everybody get caught up (in traffic) some times. I actually had a run on him several times and he kind of ran me to the bottom there. We didn't get caught up, luckily.
"That's how I got him. He tried to go below (me), then I got a run high and I got underneath him going into (turn) three."
Dixon, who led only 27 laps in the race, went on to win by 2.125 seconds, nearly half the main straightaway.
"It was tough," said Dixon, who got his second victory of the season and 18th of his career. "Man, what a long race. Traffic was (the) key today."
It was a great result for Dixon, frustrated after finishing second to Briscoe here last year.
"We've come a long way, man," Dixon said, grinning. "This place has always been so tough. I remember crashing two cars in four laps at this place in 2005 -- one in practice and one in qualifying. That's probably a record of some kind. So I'm stoked that the Target car was so fast today. I'm just so happy to win at this place."
Briscoe, who led a race-high 154 laps, was happy enough with his runner-up finish.
"It was a great day -- until, whatever it was, 40 laps to go when Scott got me," the Australian driver said. "But it was hard work out there, and traffic was a huge factor, very difficult at times.
"Once he got the lead, he was fast. I couldn't really keep up. But it was exciting and I love this place."
Helio Castroneves, riding a high after winning last Sunday's Indianapolis 500, crashed in qualifying on Saturday, had to start last in the 20-car field and never was able to get into contention. He wound up in 11th and fell from second to sixth in the season points.
"Unfortunately, we were never able to find a good direction," Castroneves said. "Ryan seemed to be very comfortable at this track, and it's a shame that he didn't finish first, because certainly he had a winning car here."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)