Dixon steals Kentucky from Castroneves for record-tying sixth victory
SPARTA, Ky. -- Scott Dixon is having one of those near-perfect seasons, and it's more than a little frustrating for the guy trying to chase him down.
Dixon came from behind Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, passing Helio Castroneves coming off the final turn on the 1.5-mile oval to win the Meijer Indy 300. It was the second win in a row and the sixth victory of the season for Dixon, tying the record of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon as he races toward what would be his second IndyCar Series championship.
Series runner-up Castroneves, still trying for his first victory of the season and his first series title as he chases Dixon, tried to get this one with fuel strategy.
It looked as if Castroneves had it when he took the lead with six laps to go when Dixon, who had dominated most of the 200-lap race, was forced to make a fuel stop.
Dixon came out just over 6 seconds behind the Brazilian, but steadily cut into the margin. He started the final lap just six-tenths of a second behind and finally passed Castroneves as the leader slowed coming off the fourth turn, out of fuel.
Castroneves then coasted slowly across the finish line, barely holding off Marco Andretti.
"I knew he was a little bit slow and I could see us catching him, and to get him on the last corner was pretty fantastic," Dixon said. "I said that view was pretty sweet.
"I think this is the view Dario had on the last lap in Chicago last year," added Dixon, referring to Dario Franchitti passing him on the last lap to win both the race and the championship last year in the season-finale.
It was the seventh second-place finish of the season for the frustrated Castroneves.
"Going into turn three I was like finally, I'm going to win a race," Castroneves said. "In turn four I was just trying to finish. I saw a bunch of cars pass me and I'm like 'I can't believe it.'"
Still able to smile, he added, "I tried everything. Second seems to be my place. What can I say? Every time he wins I finish second and, unfortunately, every time I finish second, he finishes first. We've got to change that."
Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Racing, who calls the races for Castroneves, brought his driver in to top off the fuel tank on Lap 143, meaning Castroneves had to go the final 64 laps on a tank of fuel -- about 12 laps further than the average.
As Dixon chased down the leader, Cindric could be heard on the radio exhorting Castroneves: "You got to go! You got to go! He's coming!"
He did his best until the ethanol ran out.
Castroneves was philosophical.
"It was the opportunity to play strategy and I give the total credit to Tim Cindric," he said. "It was his call. It almost worked."
Dixon also earned the three-point bonus for leading a race-high 151 laps and extended his series lead over runner-up Castroneves by 13 points to an almost insurmountable 78 with three races remaining.
"Scott is having a fantastic year," said Castroneves, who has finished in the top five in all but two of the 14 races this season. "This is one of the first races where we didn't have the car, but we took chances."
The finish was almost as frustrating for Andretti, also winless this season. The son of Andretti Green Racing co-owner Michael Andretti lost his shot at his second career victory and first since August 2006 when he had to make his final pit stop on Lap 189.
"We have got to start capitalizing on these cars that can win these races," said Andretti, who led 38 laps. "Dixon had a bit of speed on us, but I think we had a better car in traffic. It was between him and I to win this race, and I think it is just unfortunate."
Vitor Meira, in the hunt throughout the race, finished fourth, followed by Wheldon, Ed Carpenter, Ryan Briscoe and defending race winner Tony Kanaan. Danica Patrick, who had to start last after crashing in practice and missing Friday's qualifying, finished 11th, a lap off the pace.
Dixon now has five of his six wins and 10 top-five finishes in 10 oval races this season.
Starting from the pole for the sixth time in 2008, he looked unbeatable early in the race. But both Meira, still looking for his first IndyCar victory in his 90th career start, and Andretti were able to stay with him. Each was able to pass Dixon for the lead at times, but the eventual winner was able to keep his near-perfect season going.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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