INDYCAR SERIES Indianapolis 500Final
Dixon wins 92nd Indianapolis 500May 25, 2008 - 11:50 PM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) - After a wild 92nd Indianapolis 500 that included crashes and a near brawl between Danica Patrick and Ryan Briscoe, in the end it was quiet New Zealander Scott Dixon that restored calm to this race by scoring a decisive victory at Indy on Sunday.
Dixon started on the pole and led seven times for 115 laps of the race. He was able to hold off a late-race charge from Vitor Meira of Brazil and Marco Andretti of Nazareth, Pennsylvania to win by 1.7498 seconds.
Dixon, who finished second in last year's Indy 500 to Dario Franchitti, was able to finish one position higher a year later.
"I just couldn't believe it," Dixon said as he was kissed repeatedly by his wife, Emma. "There were so many yellows there it was hard to get into a rhythm. I was trying to save fuel and the car had a little too much drag on it but as long as we got a good jump on those guys on the restart, I could stay up front."
As Dixon was given the traditional bottle of milk in Victory Lane, he took a big swig and then splashed everyone in pit lane.
Patrick's bid to become the first woman ever to win the Indy 500 came to a crashing end, not on the race track, but on pit lane.
The yellow flag had waved on lap 169 when Milka Duno spun out in between Turns 1 and 2.
As Patrick was leaving pit lane preparing to have a fight to the finish for the victory, Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske pulled out of pit lane, got on the throttle and lost control of his race car.
"Briscoe lit it up coming out of pit lane, fishtailed and he nailed Danica in the rear," team owner Michael Andretti said.
Patrick climbed out of her race car, took off her gloves and headed down pit lane to confront Briscoe for taking her out of the race.
She was stopped by Charles Burns, the head of security at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway who bears a resemblance to Lou Gossett Jr. as the drill sergeant in the film, "An Officer and a Gentleman."
He directed Patrick over the pit wall and she stalked back to her pit surrounded by an army of camera people.
"It's probably best that I didn't get down there any way," Patrick said. "I was pulling out of pit lane and from what I know it was pretty obvious what happened.
"The guys worked hard today and we had a great car all month but we didn't get to show it at the end."
While this drama was playing itself out in front of a huge crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the green flag waved to resume the race on lap 176 with Dixon ahead of Meira.
A fierce battle ensued with positions 1-16 all on the lead lap and positions 1-14 in a nose to tail battle.
Marco Andretti passed Helio Castroneves on lap 190 to move into third place behind Dixon and Meira. Ed Carpenter, who had dropped to 16th place after stalling in the pits earlier in the race, tried to pass Castroneves for fourth place but couldn't make the move.
But in the end, it was Dixon - the fastest driver all month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway who was fastest again on the day that mattered most - Race Day.
"We come here to the Indy 500 and we've been lucky enough to win and we've been lucky enough to finish up front," said Mike Hull, the managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. "This year we had speed and speed was the denominator that we had with both Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon. When you have speed as your ally, then it makes what we did enormously easier.
"So as Chip Ganassi spoke a couple of weeks ago when we talked about the pole, it's all about the people that prepare the cars to give them the opportunity to win big races."
That speed allowed Dixon the opportunity to stay ahead of the trouble, or speed past it, in a race that featured eight caution flags for 69 laps. That dropped the average speed to 143.567 miles per hour and extended the race to 3 hours, 28 minutes, 57.6792 seconds.
Dixon and teammate Dan Wheldon were moving targets at the front of the field through the first 200 miles of the race. Wheldon led four times for 30 laps before developing a broken shock on his race car. He would finish 12th.
At the 100-mile mark, the action was heating up as A.J. Foyt IV tried to leave his pits on lap 40 but his car caught on fire. Foyt, the grandson of four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, had made a basic pit stop but as the car tried to leave the pits, it lurched, then stalled, then lurched again and that is when flames became visible from the highly-flammable Ethanol.
Foyt got out of his race car and banged his fist repeatedly on the sidepod of his car as his race came to an end.
Foyt's flare-up came during the second caution of the race when 19-year-old Graham Rahal crashed in the fourth turn on the 37th lap. Rahal said he was held up by Alex Lloyd, who ironically was driving a car owned by Rahal's father, Bobby, in Sunday's race.
Marty Roth lived up to his last row reputation as the slowest driver in the field for the 500 when he crashed out on the 61st lap. The green flag then waved on lap 72 with Dixon ahead of his Target teammate.
The bad news for two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves was that a piece of debris off Roth's crashed car in Turn 4 hit the front wing on his car.
The good news for Castroneves, who is as famous for his "Dancing with the Stars" title last November is he drives for Team Penske, which can repair a front nose section on an IndyCar quicker than anyone in the business.
Castroneves drove into the pits, had the front nose replaced, got an adjustment of wing angle and left in 15th position while Roth's crumpled car was still being tended to on pit lane.
The yellow flag waved on the 80th lap when Brazil's Jaime Camara slammed hard into the Turn 1 wall, bounced off and slid down the south short chute and then crashed hard into the second turn wall.
Camara was able to climb out of the race car without assistance.
One lap past the 300-mile mark, Andretti sped past Dixon down the frontstretch to pull off the pass in the first turn.
Earlier, young Andretti was involved in a bit of controversy when he tried to pass teammate Tony Kanaan on the inside. Kanaan was the race leader and his car had slid high in the third turn wall after he had to turn away from Andretti to keep from taking both drivers out of the race. That sent cars into the gray area of the race track, where little pellets of tire rubble produce what is known as marbles.
Dixon was able to get by as did Andretti as the fifth yellow flag of the race was displayed.
"TK was surprised that Marco Andretti was there," said team owner Michael Andretti. "Should Marco have been there? I don't know. It is a shame because Tony had a really strong car."
Kanaan was not happy with his teammate, Andretti, who went to the inside of Kanaan's car and that forced him up the track.
"He better be sorry, it was a very stupid move, especially on a teammate," Kanaan said. "Me being a teammate, I didn't want to turn into him because it would have taken out two cars on the team. As usual, I'm the leader at halfway and don't win the race.
"My God, I feel so sorry for Sarah Fisher. She was crying so much and I feel so bad for her because they have been trying to get this effort together. I gave her a big hug and told her cry it all out then come out of here with a big smile."
Jeff Simmons became the second driver to crash under caution - Fisher did it during the first yellow flag period - when he wiped out on the frontstretch during the lengthy caution to clean up the debris from the Kanaan-Fisher crash.
It was also a hard day for the rookies at Indy.
Alex Lloyd of Sheffield, England, who hit the outside of the fourth turn wall, then veered into pit lane backwards as IndyCar Series pit lane officials scattered. Lloyd's car came very close to Mario Moraes' pit crew that was being tended to in pit lane.
"It could have been a lot worse," Lloyd said.
The race also featured 18 lead changes among nine drivers with 15 of the 33 starters finishing on the lead lap.
And that type of competition thrilled one of the biggest crowds to attend the Indy 500 in years as the Speedway was close to full with an estimated crowd of 350,000 including crowds lining the infield fence.
And they got the cheer the driver whose blazing speed throughout the month was matched by his quiet demeanor.
"It's tough to be aggressive when you don't have the equipment," Dixon said. "This month for me where we could be aggressive because I had the tools to do it and I think that was what it came down to.
"Everybody's hard work in the offseason and coming into the season, I think the team has been unstoppable over the first five races. It's nice to be aggressive, nice to have the confidence level and even better to come away with a win like this."