Dixon makes late charge, wins Ohio race on 27th birthday
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Scott Dixon escaped a first-lap accident and hung near the leaders before moving in front late to win the inaugural Honda Indy 200 on Sunday for his third straight victory.
It proved to be a particularly happy birthday for the 27-year-old Dixon -- and yet another disappointing day for Danica Patrick.
Dixon's win tightened the race in the drivers points standings. He began the race trailing Dario Franchitti, who finished second, by 34 points and trails by only 24 now with five races left.
Dixon, sixth in qualifying, took the lead for good on lap 77 of the 85-lap race when Franchitti took a delayed pit stop. Dixon was never threatened to the finish, taking his ninth IndyCar Series win. After wins at Watkins Glen and Nashville the past two weekends, he tied the series mark for consecutive victories set by Kenny Brack (1998) and tied by Dan Wheldon (2005).
A huge crowd greeted the return of IndyCar racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which has a long tradition of hosting CanAm and CART races.
Patrick, shooting to become the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race, never recovered after a bit of bad luck on the first lap that almost knocked her and two other Andretti Green teammates out of the race.
Kanaan made contact with Patrick's car in turn 4, forcing her to pull into the grass to avoid any further damage from behind. Kanaan then banged into Andretti's car, causing it to go into a half roll before flipping onto its top and sliding upside down along the edge of the pavement.
Patrick, who had a career best on a road course when she qualified second, dropped all the way to ninth and never made up the lost ground. Still, her fifth-place finish was her best ever on a road course.
Andretti was able to get out of the car on his own. He was anything but pleased by the early knockout.
"We all can't fit through there," he said of the traffic in the tight turn. "It's a bummer when people act that way on starts and things just get crazy."
Castroneves maintained the lead until most of the field pitted about a third of the way into the race. Coming off a rapid fuel refill, Dixon took the lead and built it to more than 5 seconds over Castroneves and the hard-charging Franchitti at the race's midpoint.
Ohio native Sam Hornish Jr., followed by a large, rabid group of fans who piled into buses, cars and trucks to cheer him on, was running fourth when he spun out of the first turn and rolled backward into the tire wall. After he was restarted, he returned to the course, falling all the way to 16th place in the 18-car field. He finished 14th.
Kanaan delayed his second pit stop, and rolled into the top spot, expanding his lead before finally coming in near lap 60 with almost a 10-second head start on the second-place Castroneves. But Castroneves then replaced Kanaan when he ducked into the pits, with Dixon climbing into second place and -- with plenty of fuel and rubber on this tires -- awaiting Castroneves to hit the pits.
Franchitti now has 474 points to Dixon's 450 heading into the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 5.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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