Saturday, May 1, 2010

Scott Dixon Dominates Kansas IndyCar Race; Penske's Power Stumbles

Photo Credit: Jim Haines

Having completed four races so far in this 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season Team Penske led by the driving talents of Will Power quickly established themselves as a near unbeatable entity. However, having appeared in the wake of Penske Racing's dominance through the first three races, Andretti Autosport stepped up to become a firm challenger with more than 3/4s of the season left to be run. The Penske Racing trio battles with Andretti Autosport teams in 2010 with last year's dynamic duo of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing making little impact on the tour. As the 2009 open wheel series champion and runner-up drivers sets sights on the 1.5 mile oval of Kansas Speedway, the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing organization surrounded themselves with season-high optimism.

The first oval and Saturday afternoon show for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series, the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 race at Kansas Speedway started without incident as drivers adapted well to the significant changes in this year's racing action. In benefit of his qualifying performance on Friday, Ryan Briscoe led from the start of the event recording a person-best run. Taking the lead away from pole sitter Ryan Briscoe for the first time working lap 32, Scott Dixon led 167 of the 200 circuits composing the race distance. Besides Dixon and Briscoe, the only other driver leading the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 was Dixon's Target/Chip Ganassi Racing partner Dario Franchitti for 2 laps during a pit stop exchange.

The race ran clean and green for 78 laps until the first caution fell on the track for EJ Viso. Getting caught in the notorious marbles and debris at the top of the speedway's turn 4, Viso's #8 swept into the wall knocking the Venezuelan out of the event. Offering a breather from the 200-plus mile per hour race pace, cars left on the lead lap pitted for fuel and tires. Two major incidents occurred within the 10 lap caution period. Firstly, during this pit stop round, the cars of Takuma Sato and Milka Duno collided as they raced side-by-side off the pit lane. Despite shooting each other into the in-field grass area through turn 1, both cars amounted only minor damage and were able to continue. A second, more significant event transpired when Ryan Briscoe's #6 Penske Racing vehicle lost its left front wheel. Fortunately with the field still under yellow, Briscoe was able to safely pit for a new tires but lost ground on the race track.

While Scott Dixon held the top spot uncontested at Kansas Speedway, competition for the remaining top-5 positions was hot as common sights such as the #3 Penske Racing car of Helio Castroneves was joined by some surprise front runners including the #06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing machine of Hideki Mutoh. Drivers Dario Franchitti and Alex Tagiani made use of strong starting spot to stay upfront with others teams joining the party. Two cars belonging to the Andretti Autosport team, the #11 of Tony Kanaan and the #37 of Ryan Hunter-Reay, both made significant movements up from their starting positions.

In the final 25 laps, the race was slowed by two cautions for accidents. On lap 179, the first yellow flag came when Jay Howard, making his first run for Sarah Fisher Racing of the 2010 season, lost control off turn 4 and flew into the frontstretch wall. Howard exited the car unhurt. With a restart on lap 185, the caution came out one more time 2 laps later when the Japanese drivers Takuma Sato and Hideki Mutoh came together on frontstretch when they were three-wide running alongside Simona Silvestro.

Thanks to a sizable separation caused by a multitude of lapped cars, Scott Dixon was left unchallenged as he sprints to his first IZOD IndyCar win of the year. Dario Franchitti made it a Target/Chip Ganassi Racing one-two passing Helio Castroneves for the second spot. Franchitti still finished more than 3 seconds behind Dixon.

Despite losing a position in the final laps, Tony Kanaan and the whole #11 Andretti Autosport group can happily celebrate an impressive podium run in the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 climbing 10 places from his starting position. Finishing 3rd, Kanaan has shown blazing speed but had struggled to transfer the pace to a top result on the four road courses. The #37 Andretti Autosport car also enjoyed a good race at Kansas. Ryan Hunter-Reay emerged up 17 positions to finish 5th as a brilliant way to back-up his victory last race on the streets of Long Beach.

As for the Penske Racing organization, the Kansas Speedway oval provided a mixed result. Helio Castroneves arrived home 4th and Ryan Briscoe recovered from his wheel issue to finish a well-earned 6th place. As for Penske's road course ace Will Power, the first visit to a circle track was a shockingly off-day for the #12 team. Having finished on the podium three of the last four races, Power finished 2 laps down in 12th spot. In overall IZOD IndyCar points, Will Power retains the lead but loses 34 markers to Scott Dixon, 14 points to teammate Helio Castroneves and 12 to Ryan Hunter-Reay. The top 4 drivers are within 31 points entering the Indianapolis 500.

In a post-race interview, Scott Dixon enlightened the race viewers on the driver's mindset leading an IndyCar event. "When you're leading that long, you're waiting for something to go wrong, whether it's the engine, you hear noises, or if you're going to have a tire go flat. In that scenario, it's going quite smoothly. It's not going easy, but it's going smoothly. You're waiting for maybe lap traffic." Dixon said.

Photo Credit: Jim Haines

2010 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway
IZOD IndyCar Series
Race Results

1. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
2. 10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
3. 11 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ Andretti Autosport
4. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing
5. 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/ Andretti Autosport
6. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing
7. 32 Mario Moraes/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology
8. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ FAZZT Race Team
9. John Andretti/American/ Team Window World
10. 14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Enterprises
11. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
12. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing
13. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport
14. 24 Mike Conway/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
15. 4 Dan Wheldon/England/ Panther Racing
16. 2 Raphael Matos/Brazil/ Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports
17. 67 Sarah Fisher/United States/ Sarah Fisher Racing
18. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
19. 19 Alex Lloyd/England/ Dale Coyne Racing
20. 36 Bertrand Baguette/Belgium/ Conquest Racing
21. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland HVM Racing
22. 34 Mario Romancini/Brazil/ Conquest Racing
23. 06 Hideki Mutoh/ Japan/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
24. 5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
25. 66 Jay Howard/England/Sarah Fisher Racing
26. 18 Milka Duno/Venezuela/ Dale Coyne Racing
27. 8 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology

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