Dominant Dixon bad news for title contenders

August, 10, 2009
STEAM CORNERS, Ohio -- If anyone had forgotten who the IndyCar Series' best driver is, Scott Dixon provided a timely reminder Sunday afternoon at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Dixon won the Honda Indy 200 by 29.78 seconds -- that's right, almost 30 seconds -- over Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, putting himself back at the top of the point standings in his quest for a second consecutive (and third overall) IndyCar Series championship. With 20 wins under Indy Racing League sanction (1996 to present), the New Zealander is now the most successful driver in series history, breaking a tie with Sam Hornish Jr.

Dixon made it look ridiculously easy at Mid-Ohio for his league-leading fourth win of the season. After running the first stint in third place behind Briscoe -- "He was really slow for some reason," Dixon said -- the No. 9 Target/Ganassi car hunted down leader Justin Wilson. When Wilson fumbled while lapping backmarker Milka Duno, Dixon went by in a flash.

He might have lapped the field if not for a pair of brief full-course cautions for spins involving Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick.

Slowed by a blistered right-front Firestone alternate tire, Briscoe had his hands full holding off Franchitti.

But this was a one-man race, and Dixon was clearly pleased at the way he earned his first victory since Richmond International Raceway on June 27.

"The car was just really good," Dixon said. "It was fun. You don't get cars like this too often or days that go this smoothly. The last time I had a dominant car like this, purely on a street course or road course, was Detroit last year. But with strategy there, we just got hung out.

"Obviously it's a fantastic milestone for myself and obviously for the team. I've achieved all of those wins with Team Target. Without them, it wouldn't have been possible."

The brief midrace caution periods had no bearing on the Mid-Ohio race. And once the final green flag flew, Dixon was gone, never to be seen again by his competition.

"No doubt he was strong," said Briscoe, whose sixth second-place finish of the 2009 season kept him within three points of Dixon's reclaimed championship lead. "I heard him saying he could just put the car anywhere. He just had one of those cars."

"Yeah, Dixie, he's been on it," added Franchitti, who is now 20 points behind his teammate with four races remaining. "Today was a great performance by him -- really, really impressive.

"But Ryan said it best. When you get to this place and you get in a rhythm with that car, you can do exactly what you want with it and you do a performance like Scott did today. It was dominant and very impressive. Yeah, he's tough to beat as my teammate."

Dixon deflected praise for becoming the IndyCar Series record holder for race wins and wouldn't hear of being called the Series' best-ever driver.

"Sam's not here to defend that," Dixon deferred.

Franchitti offered his perspective.

"Very different drivers," said the 2007 IndyCar Series champion. "I've watched Scott get better in all the different disciplines. He can win on any type of track. Sam is a fantastic oval driver, but really struggled on the road courses. He was getting better before he left for NASCAR, but he really struggled."

Franchitti and Briscoe will have a struggle on their hands to wrestle the championship lead back from Dixon, who vows to approach the final four races looking to add victories to his record tally, not race for points.

The IndyCar Series championship lead has changed hands 12 times in 13 races this year.

"Last year we got into the stupid scenario of racing and looking at points, racing for a championship, as opposed to just taking them race by race," Dixon said. "I think this year we're just definitely going to go race by race and try to clean up."

Not a comforting thought for his rivals.



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