Dixon keeps championship pace with milestone win
Scott Dixon wasn't thinking about tying the IndyCar Series' victory record during the closing laps of the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway. More pressing was keeping Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti behind his No. 9 entry.
Dixon remained the leader following a Lap 260 restart on the 0.75-mile oval and went on to win by 0.3109 of a second - his second victory at the D-shaped oval (2003), his third victory of the season (Kansas, Milwaukee) and the 19th of his career (tying Sam Hornish Jr.).
"Achievements like that are something you can look back at someday and treasure," said Dixon, who's embroiled in a points battle at the midpoint of the season. "There will be many years, hopefully, in my career that I can try to build on that. But there are a lot of people like TK (Tony Kanaan) and Helio (Castroneves) that are pretty close. I have to stick at it for a long time to try to keep that going."
Kanaan has 13 IndyCar Series career victories, while Castroneves has 16. Dan Wheldon, the 2005 series champion, has 15 victories. Hornish, a three-time series champion, piled up the wins from 2000-07 in 116 starts. His 19th came at Texas Motor Speedway in June 2007 (his 106th race).
"It's pretty cool to be in that position," said Dixon, who competed in his 104th event. "I know Sam really well. He's a fantastic driver and definitely had this series captured many years ago when he was first in here, and to leave on the note he did, with (an Indianapolis) 500 (victory) and a championship, was pretty special as well.
"Definitely would like one more so we can have that record outright."
This week's Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen is conducive to accomplishing that; Dixon has won three of the four IndyCar Series races at Watkins Glen International.
Dixon recorded his first IndyCar Series title as a rookie with the Ganassi outfit in 2003, amassing three victories and 11 top-10s in 16 races. He went winless the next season and posted three victories over the next two years.
In 2007, contending for the championship again down to the final lap of the season finale, Dixon won at Nashville, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio on consecutive weekends and at Infineon Raceway - all in the second half of the season to pressure Franchitti.
Last year, Dixon kicked off the season with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway and added five more - including the Indianapolis 500 -- to tie Wheldon's series record. He won the title in the final race by 17 points over Castroneves.
Dixon finished outside the top 10 at St. Petersburg and Long Beach but has since notched top-five finishes in five of the six events including the three victories to sit one point behind Franchitti in the standings. If history holds, both drivers will remain in the hunt. Four of the past eight winners at Richmond went on to the series title (including Dixon in '03 and Franchitti in '07); and all the champions have finished in the top five at the track.
"We've had some bad races at the start of the year and obviously Helio started a little bit later," Dixon said. "I hope that we can continue to be a little bit more consistent than them and gain points when we need to. (Richmond) was a big gain for us and could be a pivotal point of the season."