INDYCAR SERIES Firestone 200Final
Dixon wins rain-shortened Firestone Indy 200Jul 13, 2008 - 5:07 AM LEBANON, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Scott Dixon's gamble paid off.
Dixon won the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday after rain ended the event 29 laps short of completion.
It was the fourth win of the season for the 27-year-old New Zealander, who has been victorious at this track each of the last three years.
"It's a big night for our racing team," Dixon said. "Every time we've run this car, I've won with it, either here at Nashville or elsewhere. It's been a (heck) of a lot of luck for us, but you could not have been luckier than we were tonight."
The race was threatened with a line of showers even before the green flag was waved. The National Weather Service predicted a 30 percent chance of rain, and as the race reached the midway point, heavy clouds appeared.
Several drivers, including Danica Patrick, claimed they saw lightning in the distance.
The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, Dixon collected his 14th career checkered flag when he and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon decided not to pit on lap 138, where the race went under its third caution due to the first weather delay.
Both drivers were told by team race strategist Mike Hull to conserve fuel as most of the others came in for tires and fuel after officials finally opened pit row.
"On the first rain caution, there was actually a bit of miscommunication," Dixon said on whether he thought he needed fuel. "By the time they called me in (to pit), I was already way past the pit entry. Our fuel situation wasn't looking too good until the rains came back. The win wasn't pretty, but we'll take it."
Dixon and Wheldon had last pitted at the halfway point, when Ryan Hunter-Reay lost control of his car and smashed into the wall coming out of turn 4 on lap 99.
The third caution lasted 14 turns of the 1.33-mile oval before the showers temporarily stopped. A green restart occurred on lap 152, with Dixon and Wheldon firmly in front.
However, heavy rains returned on lap 164, bringing a fourth yellow flag for the next seven laps.
Indy Racing League officials called for a reg flag that stopped the 200-hundred lap race, bringing all drivers into the pits where they were told to stop and cover their cars. At 9:52 p.m. EDT, the event was called for what officials termed as moisture on the track, giving Dixon his win.
The 2003 IndyCar Series champion had a fast lap of 201.365 miles per hour before leading everyone into the pits for a final time at a leisurely 56.846 mph.
Wheldon was second, giving him his seventh top-five finish this year.
"I absolutely did not have a second-place car tonight," Wheldon said. "But sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. It's a great night for Target Chip Ganassi Racing to finish 1-2."
Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves, who is now 63 points behind Dixon in the driver standings, came in third.
"It's not the race we wanted to have, especially the way it finished," Castroneves said. "Team Penske did its race, and we finished third. But it was good enough for what we had because the car was really tough to handle."
Tony Kanaan, who held a 3 1/2 second lead over Dixon before the first rain caution brought him in for fuel, was fourth.
"I support my team's decision to pit 100 percent," Kanaan said. "It was the right call to come in at that time, and a lot of drivers followed our lead. Who can predict the rain?"
Dixon empathized for Kanaan's plite because he know who had the better car.
"Tonight I don't think we had the best car but the luck is going our way, and I feel for Tony," Dixon said. "We were fast by ourselves, but 'TK' was definitely stronger in traffic."
Kanaan's Andretti Green Racing teammate Patrick rounded out the top five.
"When the race was called, Dixon and Wheldon were just a few laps short of having to pit," Patrick said. "We needed something like 10 laps of yellow for them to run out of fuel. From that perspective it is tough, but that is a gamble that they took and it worked out in their favor. But we had a top-five finish tonight, and we will take it."