DIXON SAYS HE'LL 'DIG DEEP' FOR BEST SHOT AT TITLE
By Dave Lewandowski | Sep 22, 2013
Five years ago, Scott Dixon overtook Helio Castroneves exiting the final turn of the 200-lap race at Kentucky Speedway and went on to win by .5532 of a second.
Dixon’s record-tying sixth victory of the season increased his championship points lead to 78 over Castroneves with three races left. While it appeared commanding, Castroneves won two weeks later at Sonoma Raceway and was runner-up in the penultimate race at Belle Isle to close to 30 points heading into the Chicagoland Speedway shootout.
Dixon, who placed second two Castroneves on the 1.5-mile oval in the second-closest finish in IZOD IndyCar Series history, earned his second series title by 17 points.
With three races left this season, the roles are reversed. Dixon trails Castroneves by 49 points heading into the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston presented by Greater Houston Honda Dealers. The Oct. 5-6 doubleheader on the 1.683-mile, 10-turn temporary street circuit features full points in both 90-lap races, which provides another opportunity for Dixon to make up ground.
“The last couple of races probably haven’t gone as smooth as we would have liked. In short, we need to close the points gap (and) make sure we’re in the championship fight for the last race at Auto Club Speedway,” said Dixon, who has finished first, second or third in the standings each of the past six seasons.
Dixon won three consecutive races in July to vault from seventh in the championship to second, but incidents the past two events played into an inability to close on the wrinkle-resistant Castroneves (12 top-10 finishes in a row). After starting second on the Sonoma road course, a drive-through penalty for a pit lane safety violation dropped the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car to 21st. Dixon advanced to finish 15th to salvage a few points. A week later at Baltimore, contact on Lap 53 left the pole sitter in 19th place.
“We’ll dig deep and try to make sure we have a good shot at it,” added Dixon, who was fourth in the standings with three races left in 2012 and gained one position in the finale at Auto Club Speedway.
He’ll join teammates Dario Franchitti and Charlie Kimball for a Honda manufacturer test Sept. 24 at the 2-mile oval in Fontana, Calif., which on Oct. 19 will host the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships.
Dixon qualified fifth and started 15th because of an engine change penalty in the 2012 season finale. He drove to the top, leading 15 laps, and finished third to Franchitti and race winner Ed Carpenter.
“The current car, new for 2012, really worked well with the circuit,” said Dixon of the race that featured 29 lead changes among 12 drivers. “Last year’s race was a complete nail-biter to the end of 500 miles. (It was) a grueling race. I expect no different this year; it will be edge-of-your-seat action and I hope to be on the top spot.”
The Honda and Chevrolet test day is free and open to the public from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (local). Viewing will be from the Terrace Suite rooftops above pit road. Spectators are advised to enter through the speedway’s main gate off Cherry Avenue and follow signs to park.
Scheduled to participate by manufacturer:
* Andretti Autosport -- Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso
* Dragon Racing -- Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastian Saavedra
* Ed Carpenter Racing -- Ed Carpenter
* KV Racing Technology -- Tony Kanaan, Simona De Silvestro
* Panther Racing -- Oriol Servia
* Team Penske -- Helio Castroneves, Will Power
* A.J. Foyt Racing -- Takuma Sato
* Dale Coyne Racing -- Pippa Mann, Justin Wilson
* Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing -- Charlie Kimball
* Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing -- James Jakes, Graham Rahal
* Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing -- Josef Newgarden
* Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports -- Simon Pagenaud
* Schmidt Peterson Motorsports -- Tristan Vautier
* Target Chip Ganassi Racing -- Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti
The Firestone Indy Lights championship also will be decided Oct. 19. Only 35 points separate five drivers heading to the race Oct. 5 on the Houston street circuit.
To purchase tickets to the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championship Weekend, which includes the PRD Pan-American Crown of Karting event, call 800-944-RACE (7223), CLICK HERE or visit the Auto Club Speedway ticket office.