Dixon beats Castroneves in Kansas
The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver, 17th in the championship standings after two rounds, won his 17th IndyCar Series race (11th on an oval) by 0.7104 of a second over the hard-charging Castroneves on a blustery day in the heartland.
Tony Kanaan finished third in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car and Ryan Briscoe, driving the No. 6 Team Penske car, was fourth. Andretti Green Racing teammates Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti followed. Pole sitter Graham Rahal finished seventh -- his career best on an oval. Kanaan leads Briscoe by one point in the championship standings heading into the Indianapolis 500 on May 24.
"Consistency is definitely the key," Kanaan said. "But we need to work a lot harder to get this car to win races. But in the meantime, we keep finishing where we need to be. Obviously, it feels good, but it's so early in the season. It's good momentum going to Indy."
Winds gusting to 30 mph at the green flag were part of threatening weather in the state (multiple tornados touched down 24 hours earlier), which affected the cars on the 1.5-mile oval.
"We added a lot of downforce for the race and that actually cost me toward the end," Kanaan said. "I told my engineer that we need to be there at the end, so don't give me a car that's going to scare the hell out of me during the whole race. Obviously I regretted it a little in the end, but it was a good result for the team."
The win was the third in a row at the track by a Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver.
Dixon entered the race 17th in points after two difficult races on street circuits to begin the season. The return to a 1.5-mile oval suited him well. After starting fourth, Dixon passed pole sitter Graham Rahal on Lap 8 and went on to lead 134 of 200 laps for his 17th career victory. The win moved Dixon to fourth in the point standings as the IndyCar Series prepares for the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves nearly duplicated his back-to-front victory from last September at Chicagoland. In that race, Castroneves won after starting 28th. Sunday, he worked his way up from the 21st to second.
Tony Kanaan finished third. The only driver to record top-five finishes in each of the first three races this season, Kanaan moved into the points lead, one point ahead of Ryan Briscoe, who finished fourth.
Kanaan led an Andretti Green Racing contingent that placed all four drivers in the top 10 for the first time since Milwaukee 2006. Danica Patrick finished fifth, Marco Andretti sixth and Hideki Mutoh eighth.
Rahal finished seventh and two-time defending race winner Dan Wheldon finished 10th.
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC.
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, first): “I think we were expecting the race to be a lot more difficult as far as the wind conditions in Turns 3 and 4 and maybe more cautions. Our team was definitely talking about a lot of cautions and making sure we saved fuel. All-in-all for me it was a pretty smooth race. We had a great car. We jumped straight to second then about 10 laps later we got Graham (Rahal) when he slid up the track a bit in Turns 3 and 4. We got out front and started saving fuel. The Target car was really good all day. We had a bit of a fumble in the pits, which dropped us back to third at one point and made it quite difficult to get past (Ryan) Briscoe. I think we were trimmed to win as they say. The car was maybe not as good as it should have been in traffic. Luckily enough, we were saving enough fuel and caught the caution that catapulted us to the front.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): “That was a lot of fun. This wind was a little bit challenging, but it was the same for everyone. Team Penske did a hell of a job. Ryan (Briscoe) and I were working really well together and you can see both Team Penske cars up at the top. It’s good points. Yes, you want to win, but Scott (Dixon) did a hell of a job. Andretti Green also – it’s a good battle. Hopefully this is good preparation for the Indianapolis 500.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, third): “Consistency is definitely the key. But we need to work a lot harder to get this car to win races. But in the meantime, we keep finishing where we need to be. Obviously, it feels good, but it’s so early in the season. It’s good momentum going to Indy. We added a lot of downforce for the race, and that actually cost me toward the end. I told my engineer that we need to be there at the end, so don’t give me a car that’s going to scare the hell out of me during the whole race. Obviously I regretted it a little in the end, but it was a good result for the team.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, fourth): “It’s a solid result, but it’s really disappointing. We had the car to win, and we had the track position until we got caught out with that yellow, so it’s really unfortunate. But I’m happy to be disappointed for that reason, that’s for sure.”
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, fifth): “We made some adjustments that made the car good for the race. We struggled with a little bit of understeer to start, but my guys were good in the pits, got me some front wing and they were good on the stops at the end, which is what helped me kind of jump forward and pass a couple of cars. It’s tough to pass out there, and when you get behind a couple cars, it’s even more understeer because there’s no wind in front of you. The guys did a great job, and we’re really excited to go to Indy.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, sixth): “I’m happy with my sixth-place finish for the No. 26 car. We struggled a bit, but I can’t complain. We took a non-perfect car and kept it on pace with the leaders. We had a rough morning warm-up, but the Venom Energy boys worked hard all day, so we were able to turn the day around. I feel confident going into the Indy 500.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, seventh): “We had a pretty good start. On the first lap, we pulled away. It was just Dixie (Scott Dixon) and I moving our way forward, trying to pull out a gap. I was struggling a bit in Turns 3 and 4, and that’s where I got passed the three times I was passed. Late in the race, I discovered the high line, and that’s how I got around everybody, because my car was pretty good in (Turns) 3 and 4 up top. I need to definitely think about that earlier next time. It’s a lesson learned. Having to do the splash and go there at the end for what was to be our last stop really cost us four spots, so realistically we were looking pretty good. I think the McDonald's team has the outright speed, but we just need to make sure we have it for the whole race.” (About Dario Franchitti’s accident:) “I didn’t see that. I have no clue what happened. I’ll go talk to him, but all of a sudden I saw out of my right rear mirror the thing just went straight and I was like, ‘Whoa, what happened there?’ I signaled that I was coming into pit lane by putting two wheels over the white line, and I did it right off Turn 2, and then I came back out to the white line and ducked in. I hit the brakes once I ducked, and it was pretty late – later than I have ever hit the brakes going into a pit lane. And all of a sudden I see this flash going by and straight into the fence. With the speed he was carrying, he wasn’t going to make it anyway whether I was there or not.”
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, eighth): “It was a really tough race for the Formula Dream car. We started from the 13th position and were able to move through traffic and finish seventh. I’m a little disappointed, because I think we could’ve had a top-five finish since I had a strong car. I can’t wait for the month of May to start.”
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