Rain allows Dixon to win third straight Nashville race
GLADEVILLE, Tenn. -- Miscommunication mixed with heavy rain turned out to be a winning combination for Scott Dixon.
Told to follow race leader Tony Kanaan, Dixon instead stayed on the track at the Nashville Superspeedway and grabbed the lead on lap 149. Dixon stretched his fuel until rain ended the Firestone Indy 200 with 29 laps left, giving him his third consecutive victory at this track and his fourth this season.
"When they called me to pit, or follow Kanaan was the words, I was way past ... there was no coming in," Dixon said as he cradled the trophy Gibson guitar under cover.
Dixon said he would have spun out if he had tried to follow Kanaan into the pits, which was why he didn't pit himself. Dixon was furious over the pit call for a few laps.
"But when I saw that rain coming down, I thought, 'Oh, this could work out pretty good,'" Dixon said.
It was a nice change from a week ago when Dixon spun out under yellow chasing his fourth consecutive win at Watkins Glen. That rare mistake dropped him to 11th.
"I'd like to keep winning more so everyone would forget about that," Dixon said.
IRL officials hoped to squeeze in at least 101 laps to make the race official with rain on the radar. This race was washed out a year ago and run on Sunday with lots of empty seats.
The third caution of the night came on Lap 139 when the rain finally hit. The cars kept rolling even as fans were asked to evacuate the grandstand immediately due to weather. They went back to green before the fourth and final caution came on Lap 167.
IRL officials kept the cars rolling until the rain came harder, and the race was red-flagged on Lap 171. Officials checked the radar, which showed heavy rain stretching out far to the west. This race became the 13th IndyCar Series event with a red flag, the first since the Indianapolis 500 in 2007, and the fourth red-flagged and not restarted because of rain.
"It worked out fantastic," Dixon said of the mixup. "I'm bloody happy for the championship to be honest."
Dixon won his 14th career victory and the 100th overall in motorsports for Chip Ganassi Racing with an average speed of 148.072 mph. Dixon also expanded his lead over Castroneves in the points race from 48 to 63.
Ganassi teammate Dan Wheldon finished second after gambling that he could stretch his fuel until the rain hit. It was the 26th time in IndyCar history that teammates have finished 1-2, the fourth time for Target Chip Ganassi.
Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves took advantage of a track cleaned of the rubber chunks chewed off the tires by the concrete track to pass both Danica Patrick and Kanaan on Lap 153 after the last restart. He finished third.
Kanaan wound up fourth with Patrick fifth, and Kanaan wasn't second-guessing the decision to pit.
"It was the right call to come in on Lap 148. Who can predict the rain? Unfortunately, the rain and I don't get along too well," Kanaan said.
Castroneves started on the pole, the first he had earned in qualifying this year. He looked strong early but lost the lead on Lap 55 when Dixon passed him with Kanaan and Patrick coming with him. At least Castroneves led a lap on this track for the first time in now seven starts, leaving Sonoma as the only track where he has never led at least one lap.
"It's one of those days. Those guys had what, 10-15 laps on the fuel [left]. They took a chance. Chances sometimes pay off. It paid off for those guys. We did everything we could, and third-place is not bad. We're still in the championship hunt. We're going to keep working hard," Castroneves said.
After watching a thunderstorm delay the Indy Lights race by nearly two hours Saturday afternoon, the race started with everyone hoping to run at least 101 of 200 laps and make the race official.
The race was only on the third lap when Marco Andretti, who ran 73 laps in Connecticut earlier Saturday, lost his car and slipped into Ryan Briscoe coming out of Turn 2 in a crash that sent Briscoe's car backing into the wall. The left side of Andretti's car slammed into the wall, forcing the first caution.
Team Penske worked furiously to get Briscoe's car fixed to return, but Andretti was knocked out. He was treated and released at the infield care center. He said he felt badly for Briscoe being hurt as an innocent bystander.
"This morning's race didn't contribute to that driver mistake," Andretti said. "It got loose, and that's what happens."
That was the first of only four cautions over 37 laps, two for rain. Then came the red flag on Lap 171.
"I feel very lucky to be here in second place because we didn't quite have a second-place car today," Wheldon said. "But they say it's better to be lucky than good sometimes."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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