|Scott Dixon hoists yet another trophy|
When you're hot you're hot and everything seems to fall your way. Scott Dixon certainly is hot. Helio Castroneves and his Penske crew gambled to stretching his fuel load but came up short by about 1/2-mile as his Honda engine coughed, starved for fuel, in turn 4 of the final lap as Scott Dixon swung high and beat Castroneves to the line by just 0.5532 seconds to win the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
As Castroneves' out of fuel Dallara coasted across the line, he beat Marco Andretti by 3 feet.
Marco Andretti, who led 38 laps, finished third, and Vitor Meira, who started second, finished fourth.
Vitor Meira and Dan Wheldon rounded out the top-5.
The dramatic finish was set up with 67 laps to go when Milka Duno crashed hard into the outside wall on the exit of Turn 2. Everyone pitted but it would be difficult to make it all the way without another stop. Leader Marco Andretti came into the pits first but Scott Dixon beat him off of pit lane because he had the final pitbox that gave him an advantage to accelerate and just beat Andretti to the pit exit line.
During the caution AJ Foyt IV retired with a gearbox problem, the third of the night. This is most surprising for an oval track and underscores the poor quality of the current IndyCar, which should be replaced sooner rather than later.
When the green flag flew, Andretti went to the front but he was burning a lot of fuel by running so hard, meaning his splash and go at the end would take a tick longer. Meanwhile Dixon backed off to save fuel and Castroneves backed off even more, his plan was to not stop at all.
Dixon's splash and go at the end put him ahead of Andretti on the track but Castroneves took the lead after all of the leaders made their stops, gambling that he could soft pedal it to the finish line.
The gamble almost paid off. Although he just missed the win he did finish second, which was better than he ran all day.
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, first): “What a day. I think we tried to play it kind of safe and just be conservative. Even in traffic we really didn’t rush things. The car was fantastic. We didn’t have as much speed, actually, as we thought we did, especially in practice and qualifying. The car was super fast. We had a couple of guys that definitely sped up, with (Vitor) Meira and Marco (Andretti) toward the end, their cars were very fast. It was strategy in the end, it was crazy. There was no way we were going to catch him. He was half the track ahead of us. I knew our car was probably quicker than his, but not 20 miles per hour faster. It was nice to get it the way we did. I think about the run that Dario (Franchitti) had for the championship last season, and it’s nice to be able to be in that position after how we lost it last year.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): “We took a chance. I can't believe how close we were. Coming out of the last turn, the fuel pressure went on and I started to lift. I was just a few hundred yards short. I have to thank (Tim) Cindric and Team Penske for the great strategy. We did not have the car, unfortunately, so I'm extremely happy with second.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Meijer, third): “We have got to start capitalizing on these cars that can win these races. (Scott) Dixon had a bit of speed on us, but I think we had a better car in traffic. It was between him and I to win this race, and I think it is just unfortunate.”
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard, fourth): “Today was good. I think we were actually a little light at the beginning of the race, but we were ahead, so that actually offset it. Everyone did a good job, and we can’t complain. Everyone wanted to win, and we put ourselves into position to do that. It was a good finish, and this gives us momentum going into the next race and the rest of the season. We gained points, and we gained everything else, so we are happy that we had an overall good day even though we would have liked to see the win.”
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Polaroid, fifth): “It was a very competitive race, and I am really happy for Scott Dixon and all the guys at Target Chip Ganassi. I was having trouble finding speed, and Tony (Kanaan) just wasn’t going to let me have it easy, but that’s good racing. I didn’t seem to quite have enough. It was a good race. We lost a lot of spots in the pits on that last one, and it is difficult to get them back. It seemed I had it going pretty good in the draft, but when I got outside I wasn’t quite quick enough. It was a competitive race, and it seemed like we rode pretty well, just a little bit short.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, sixth): “It was fun, clean racing out there tonight. I raced hard with Hideki (Mutoh) and TK (Tony Kanaan), (Dan) Wheldon and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay. I should be happier with a sixth-place finish than I am, but we came here really wanting to get on the podium or battle for a win. It was a good day, and we made up some ground on points. A couple of the other cars were a little quicker than me late in the race. We may have had a little too much downforce in the car late in the race when the track was in the shadows, but the Menards car was a really good car tonight. It's a good finish to get on an oval and score some points. How we'll just head go to Sonoma and Detroit and figure out how to do the same.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, seventh): “Team Penske did a great job today. We had a solid, consistent run and the car was handling very well. It was definitely fun out there; there was a lot of side-by-side racing and it really was quite exciting. I think we had a solid car, we just didn't quite have to speed to run in the top three or four. We would've liked a bit higher finish, but the important thing is we earned some valuable points out there and maintain our fifth-place standing in the championship.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, eighth): “This was a difficult night for us, especially in the early stages of the race. My guys worked hard throughout the race to make the Team 7-Eleven car better, and we were able to get more and more competitive as the night went on. Obviously an eighth-place finish was not what we were looking for, though.”
||Scott Dixon (9)
||Helio Castroneves (3)
||Marco Andretti (26)
||Vitor Meira (4)
||Dan Wheldon (10)
||Ed Carpenter (20)
||Ryan Briscoe (6)
||Tony Kanaan (11)
||Ryan Hunter-Reay (17)
||Buddy Rice (15)
||Danica Patrick (7)
||Oriol Servia (5)
||EJ Viso (33)
||Bruno Junqueira (18)
||Sarah Fisher (67)
||Jaime Camara (34)
||Mario Moraes (19)
||Hideki Mutoh (27)
||Darren Manning (14)
||AJ Foyt IV (2)
||Milka Duno (23)
||Enrique Bernoldi (36)
||Marty Roth (25)
||Justin Wilson (02)
||Graham Rahal (06)
||Will Power (8)
Winner's average speed: 183.650 mph
Time of race: 1:36:42.3467
Margin of victory: 0.5532 of a second
Cautions: 3 caution flags for 21 laps
Lead changes: 10 among 5 drivers
Lap leaders: Dixon 1-44, Meira 45-49, Dixon 50-52, Patrick 53,
Dixon 54-121, Andretti 122-135, Dixon 136-164, Andretti
165-188, Dixon 189-194, Castroneves 195-199, Dixon 200.
Point standings: Dixon 558, Castroneves 480, Wheldon 420,
Kanaan 411, Briscoe 350, Patrick 315, Andretti 311, Hunter- Reay 298, Servia 298 and Mutoh 298.