‘Dixie’ Is Whistling His Way Into Record Books

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 10 2013

Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing has no plans to slow down. (INDYCAR / LAT USA) file photo)

Largely overshadowed by his more flamboyant teammate, Scott Dixon’s latest IZOD IndyCar Series victory has served as a reminder of a workmanlike career well-done.

Dixon, who turns 32 on July 22, earned his 30th Indy car win in the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco last Sunday, breaking a tie with Team Penske superstar Rick Mears for 10th on the all-time list. Next up are Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti and Sebastien Bourdais of Dragon Racing with 31 wins each, both of whom will compete in the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader Saturday and Sunday.

“I’ve had a very successful career already, and I don’t want to stop now,” said Dixon, whose 12th season with Chip Ganassi is the longest tenure for any driver in a team history dating from 1990. “I want to go for records and achieve as much as I can.

“I’ve had many dreams come true, and in motorsports it’s very hard to look a year or two down the road because it can change within a matter of months. So at the moment my next couple of years is doing this. Maybe down the road I’d like to get involved in racing from a business aspect, but at the moment I’m focused on being a driver.”

Dixon, who won the IndyCar Series championship in 2003 and ’08, jumped from seventh to fourth in the

Scott Dixon wants more. He is scheduled to make his 150th consecutive start in Toronto. (RacinToday file photo by Jim Pedley)

standings and into title contention with his victory by 0.4572-seconds over teammate Charlie Kimball in Sunday’s 160-lap race at Long Pond, Pa. Dixon is 65 points behind Helio Castroneves of Team Penske with seven consecutive road/street course races directly ahead.

“He deserves every one of his 30 wins,” said Franchitti, the four-time IndyCar Series champion who turned 40 on May 19. “I’ve said it before; I think Scott – with his age, with how good he is – he can put up some really stout numbers going forward.

“I’d like to win a couple here soon, stretch that a little again. I don’t know a number but I can see Scott getting into the 40s going forward. He’s got a few years on the clock yet, so I really think he can put big numbers up in terms of championships, race wins.”

Dixon made his 212th Indy car start – and 149th in a row– on Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile trioval. The New Zealander has been in a Target Chip Ganassi Racing car since the midway point of the 2002 Championship Auto Racing Teams season. Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Al Unser Jr. and Michael Andretti are some of the prominent drivers within statistical reach.

“Stat stuff is great to look back on, but for me it’s just trying to get the maximum that we can,” said Dixon, who collected his fifth top-five finish of the season in the No. 9 Target Dallara/Honda. “It would be great to look back and think that’s a lot more than 30 or 31.

“Dario has been doing it a little bit longer, and hopefully I can continue a little bit longer. To be on the list of names that we are encroaching on is for myself and Dario and Bourdais very exciting. There are some massive legends out there, people I’ve looked up to my whole career, and to be on a list not far from them is pretty exciting.”

The upcoming stretch includes the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where “Dixie” has won the past two years. Both 85-lap races on the Streets of Exhibition Place in Toronto this weekend will pay full points.

“I hope that at Mid-Ohio we have our typical tendency to do well there,” Dixon said. “Toronto also is going to create some great racing. I wish we started the year a little more positive and we wouldn’t have to work so hard in the summer months. But I think that we have a lot of good racetracks coming up.”

The Honda Indy Toronto will be televised live at 3 p.m. (EDT) by NBC Sports Network and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211, www.indycar.com and the INDYCAR 13 App for most smart phones and tablets. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Toronto 100 at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. NBC Sports Network’s taped coverage of the Pocono 100 from Pocono Raceway will be telecast at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on Friday.

ABC-TV’s live telecast of the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco from Pocono Raceway earned a 1.1 overnight rating. Sunday’s telecast tied the June 8 primetime Firestone 550 from Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth as the network’s highest-rated race outside of the Indianapolis 500 this season. Indianapolis led all markets with a 4.6 rating, followed by Richmond, Va. (2.6), Nashville, Tenn. (2.5) Atlanta (2.3) and Tulsa, Okla. (2.1).

Road-racing ace Mike Conway, who claimed a win and a pole for Dale Coyne Racing at the Belle Isle doubleheader in Detroit in June, will return to the team for the IndyCar Series doubleheader events at Toronto this weekend and at Houston’s Reliant Park on Oct. 5-6.

Englishman Conway, 29, will drive the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Dallara/Honda, the same entry he wheeled at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit in June. Conway was the only driver to secure podium finishes in both races, including his second series win in the first race.

“Hopefully we will pick up from where we left off in Detroit,” Conway said. “Toronto is one of my favorite circuits, so there is no reason why we can’t do well there.

“Houston will be new to a lot of people. However, Dale Coyne and my teammate Justin (Wilson) raced there in Champ Car so I’m hoping to get some good feedback from them. They should both be really good weekends and I want to thank Dale for giving me another chance to be a part of it.”

Conway has notched 15 top-10 finishes, five top-fives and two wins in his previous 56 series starts.

INDYCAR has updated procedures for standing starts, which will be implemented during Race 1 of the Toronto and Houston doubleheader weekends. Highlights of the standing start procedures from the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook:

Countdown _ The safety car will lead the formation lap and drivers will follow single-file in starting order.

Formation Lap _ During the formation lap, drivers will remain in starting order with no overtaking. The speed of the formation lap will be set by the safety car.

Grid _ At the end of the formation lap, drivers will take their starting positions with the front wheels of the car remaining within its designated orange grid line.

A five-second declaration will be made via radio by the Race Director prior to the start of the light sequence. The starting sequence will begin when the first two rows of red lights on the lighting panel illuminate. The red lights will continue to fill from the bottom of the light panel two rows at a time, for a total of six steps (12 rows).

Once the panel is filled with red lights, there will be a delay between 0.5 and 3-seconds and the panel will switch to all green lights and the race will begin.

False Start _ A false start shall be declared when a car moves forward or is out of its assigned position before completion of the light sequence. A penalty will be imposed for a false start.

Aborted Start _ The Race Director can declare an aborted start before the final row of red lights is illuminated on the lighting panel. If the start is aborted, the full-course caution lights will be turned on. In the event of an aborted start, a rolling start shall be implemented. Any Competitors whose actions result in an aborted start will move to the rear of the field.

Standing starts will be implemented at Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto on Saturday and the Shell/Pennzoil Houston Grand Prix on Oct. 5. Race 2 of the doubleheader weekends will utilize traditional rolling starts.

Numbers worth noting from the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco, 11th race of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season:

2 _ Consecutive front-row starts for James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport.

3 _ Positions gained by Tony Kanaan of KV Racing Technology in the final 16 laps of the race (16th to 13th).

3.41 _ Average running position of 10th-place finisher Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport during the 160 laps.

4 _ Points separating Carlos Munoz and Sage Karam in the Firestone Indy Lights standings.

5.44 _ Average running position of race-winner Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing during the 160 laps.

6 _ Podium finishes for Sage Karam during the Firestone Indy Lights season.

7 _ Consecutive top-10 finishes for championship leader Helio Castroneves of Team Penske.

17 _ Positions improved by Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti, the most gained in the race.

23 _ Points separating leader Helio Castroneves and reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport in the standings.

30 _Laps that owner/driver Ed Carpenter improved his position over the 160 laps, most of any driver.

90 _ Wins as a car-owner by Chip Ganassi, third all-time among Indy car statistics.

100 _ Wins by Target’s race program across Indy car, NASCAR and GRAND-AM sports car racing.

200 _ Wins by Honda in Indy car competition.

207 _ Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland, Ore. Kanaan is second to team-owner Jimmy Vasser’s 211 straight starts.

1,583 _ Laps completed by Helio Castroneves. The Brazilian is the only driver to have completed every lap of every race in 2013.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 10 2013
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