Dixon, Franchitti build momentum


KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Normal service resumed Saturday in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti scored a 1-2 finish for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, the second consecutive win at Kansas Speedway for Dixon and the fourth straight year a Ganassi car won on the 1.5-mile oval just west of downtown Kansas City.

Dixon's victory could not have been much more dominant. After starting on the outside of the front row, he led 167 of the 200 laps and pulled away after a late final restart to win by 3.05 seconds over his teammate. Tony Kanaan emerged third after an encouraging superspeedway performance for Andretti Autosport as the IndyCar Series' traditional "big three" teams filled the top six finishing positions.

"This is a huge win for us, especially going into the month of May," Dixon said after his record-extending 22nd career race win under Indy Racing League sanction. "We've had a slow start to the season, so this is exactly what we needed.

"With the weather conditions [Friday rain that limited practice time and delayed qualifying], we didn't have a lot of track time, so rolling off the truck strong was pretty important, and we were able to do that. The car came into its own after about 30 laps today and it was really fast after that. It was nice to drive and really consistent."

Dixon's car got progressively stronger throughout longer runs, and while Franchitti was able to stay within 2-3 seconds of his teammate, the defending IndyCar Series champion wasn't a match over the race distance.

Franchitti had to fend off a hard-charging Kanaan during the final seven-lap sprint.

"Until the last pit stop, I think Scott, Ryan [Briscoe, the Team Penske pole-winner] and myself were pretty equal," Franchitti said. "After that, Scott was just a little bit quicker, and that was the difference.

"My car's balance was really good; he was just really fast today. I could see Tony coming on strong the last 2-3 laps, but just managed to get the job done."

Briscoe passed more cars than anyone on his adventurous drive to sixth place that included an unplanned pit stop when his Team Penske entry lost its left front wheel after a mid-race pit stop.

"Our cars were fast, but we had some trouble maintaining the pace over long runs like the Ganassi cars," Briscoe said. "When I lost the wheel, it happened on the far side of the track but the main problem was we had to put on a used set of tires and they went off fairly quickly. That forced us to make our last pit stop earlier than we wanted to and we lost some track position.

"We made a good recovery, but we need to work to make our cars more consistent," the Australian added. "The Ganassi guys were really fast today."

Briscoe finished directly behind his teammate Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who did a nice job coming from the back of the field to finish fifth and put two cars in the top 5 for Andretti Autosport.

After he and Hunter-Reay qualified poorly, Kanaan was pleased to find that his race car almost had the pace to win in what was the strongest overall performance on a 1.5-mile track for the Andretti team since late 2008.

"We had some cars to pass today, but we got a great start and had great pit stops," said Kanaan, who started 15th. "We didn't have the fastest car today and we couldn't run with Dario and Scott, but the team performed well and we were able to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves.

"It was a great day for us."

Championship leader Will Power struggled with an ill-handling car and came home 12th, two laps down. Power, who won the first two races of the season, heads to Indianapolis leading the IndyCar Series championship by 26 points over Dixon as the top 5 drivers (including Castroneves, Hunter-Reay and Franchitti) are now within 38 points.

But with the all-important Indianapolis 500 looming, the story out of Kansas was the resurgence of the Ganassi team. Dixon and Franchitti failed to win one of the first four road races of the season, but they look very strong going into the richest and most prestigious race of the season.

"The car was just so good today, and that gives me a lot of confidence going into Indy," Dixon said. "The team did a fantastic job with the car and the pit stops, and the whole day just couldn't have gone any better.

"Our car was just hooked up."

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for ESPN.com.