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Flapjacks and the 500: Dixon wins at Indy

June 04, 2008
One might think that a driver getting ready to race in the Indianapolis 500 would wake up to a covered tray with a big, fancy breakfast of steak and eggs before the big day. However, for Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon, the morning of the 500 was a little more simple.

A.J. Foyt IV, right, has to avoid a flying tire and other debris from the car of Jaime Camara on lap 139 after Camara slammed into the turn one wall. (Photo by Wade Bell)
"My wife, Emma, cooked me pancakes this morning, and I have to thank her for that," Dixon said. "I got woken up by that awful cannon that goes off at six in the morning. I was up quite early. Emma made me just plain pancakes and served it up with hot syrup. That's about all I had before the race. It was a pretty simple start."

Dixon might want pancakes for every race now, because after that, the New Zealander went out and won his first Indianapolis 500, after finishing second the year before.

"I think I was worried going into the race, just because we had had just a smooth month," Dixon said. "It was one of those things where you're waiting for something to go wrong. Then, it comes down to race day and the last thing you want is something to go wrong. But going in, you always have high expectations. In the back of my mind was, 'What if we have a bad pit stop or if we have a problem of some sort mechanically that's going to take you out of it.' That's out of your hands."

Dixon, who started from the pole position, dominated the race, taking the lead at the beginning and leading 115 laps. Teammate Dan Wheldon was second in laps led, with 30 for the day.

Yellow came early to the track as Bruno Junqueira brought out the first when a mirror fell off his car. That yellow was lengthened when Sarah Fisher spun into the grass while warming her tires before the restart.

Buddy Rice led briefly after the restart, but was quickly overtaken by Wheldon. On lap 36 Dixon passed his teammate, but the race was slowed again as Graham Rahal found the wall one lap later.

Tony Kanaan's car sits along the inside fence waiting to be towed after Kanaan was involved in an accident in turn four. Kanaan was leading the race at the time. (Photo by Chris Adams)
Marty Roth brought out the third yellow of the day with a spin in turn four on lap 61. Helio Castroneves also suffered damage in the incident when a piece of debris struck the right front wing, leading to a replacement of the nose.

"I just was going around (Buddy) Lazier on the outside of him and just got caught up in the marbles and just went for a ride," Roth said.

Racing resumed on lap 91, and a lap later, Wheldon slid into the lead under Dixon on the front straightaway. Tony Kanaan also got by Dixon to take over the second position and later took the lead from Wheldon on lap 94, working to lead by just under a second.

"My issue all day was with the right rear steer in the car," Wheldon said. "It was OK in the first few stints, but it seemed to get worse and worse as the race went on. It was very difficult."

Kanaan led at the halfway point, but six laps later found himself in the wall in turn three. Kanaan spun around into the path of Fisher and both cars suffered heavy damage in the accident. Kanaan blamed Andretti Green Racing teammate Marco Andretti, who made a close pass just before the incident.

"It was a stupid move," Kanaan said. "I think teammates shouldn't do that to teammates. I'm sure he will have a good explanation for what he did. Halfway through the race with a bunch of traffic, why are you going to dive into me like that?"

"I had a huge run going through (turn three), and I went for it," Andretti said. "I tried to keep the car as far on the bottom of the race track as possible. Maybe it was a bit too late, but you hate to see that stuff happen with teammates. I had a run and went for it. If I hadn't have went for it, I was going to get overtaken for the next position."

Fisher said there was nowhere for her to go.

"Tony was racing real hard for the lead and got high and just spun right in front of me," she said. "It was just a terrible day. It just wasn't our day. The guys worked so hard this month and put together such a good race car. We just messed up the start, messed up the parade lap. It just wasn't our day."

When the race resumed, Dixon led Andretti, but five laps later Andretti made the pass to go in front, pushing to lead by a half-second. Mario Moraes briefly led during a yellow caused by Justin Wilson, but Andretti was back in control once again when racing resumed with 61 laps remaining.

Dixon went back in front on lap 140. Ed Carpenter briefly led on lap 157 during a seventh caution. Back in racing conditions, Vitor Meira flew in between Dixon and Carpenter for the front spot and 0.36-second lead.

"I wanted to catch Dixon," Meira said. "We had the car. It just didn't work out. On pit stops he was a little better because of the position he was in, being first. Throughout the day, he was very hard to pass."

The wildest incident of the day came during a caution when Milka Duno spun into the grass in turn three. During pit stops, Ryan Briscoe flew out into the side of Danica Patrick, spinning Patrick's car around and damaging the front of Briscoe's. After being pushed back to her pit box, Patrick exploded out of her car and began a march toward Briscoe's car. She got to within one pit box before being escorted over the wall and back to her pit.

"It was pretty obvious what happened," Patrick said. "You just don't come out of your pit box and swing three lanes out. That's why there is a 'get up to speed' lane and an 'at speed' lane. I was at speed."

Briscoe, however, was making no apologies.

"From what I can see, there was still plenty of room on the right side for her to get around and there are people pointing fingers," Briscoe said. "We both have brake pedals in our cars, and from what I can tell, there was still plenty of room for her to get around me."

Dixon won the race out of pit road over Meira and moved out to nearly a half-second lead. From that point, the New Zealander could not be touched as Dixon won by 1.7498 seconds over Meira, with Andretti finishing third. Helio Castroneves was fourth and Ed Carpenter rounded out the top five.

Dixon said he didn't want to lose any of his focus late in the race and kept his mind on only one thing during the last 20 laps.

"The next corner up front," he said. "That's what was going through my mind, the next corner up front. With about four or five laps to go, the traffic was definitely going through my mind. We were coming up on four or five cars and I didn't want it to play out that way. As soon as you lose momentum here, those guys breathing down your neck are going to go by you with a couple of laps to go."

Meira admitted he thought it was going to be his year when he took the lead.

"I was sure as I could be with Dixon on my butt," Meira said with a laugh. "Right when we made that last pit stop, when I was in third place, I thought, 'Now we can win.' We put ourselves in a position to win. … We had the car and we had the crew."

Ryan Hunter-Reay was the top rookie, finishing sixth.

"I drove my heart out all day, and the team, we made the car better and better," Hunter-Reay said. "(Rookie) Hideki (Mutoh) kept blocking me there at the end, and I just had to fight my way around to get by him. I wasn't going to let that race finish with that kid in front of me."

Dixon said the cool down lap was strangely quiet.

"I was shocked, almost dumbfounded," he said. "It's a such a strange feeling. It's almost like you're in a dreamland. It was quite creepy. In there you expect someone to pinch you and you wake up and you're sleeping in your bed back at home. It feels so special. The parade lap and seeing everybody out there is such a magnificent circuit."

Ganassi team owner Chip Ganassi said quiet with Dixon was nothing new.

"He's been like that ever since I've known him," Ganassi said. "At first I didn't think he was that excited about racing. … That quietness, people confuse that with caring. It's a relief to know that wasn't what it is. It's a quiet confidence, that's sort of his trademark. That's a powerful tool."

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Finishing Order

1. Scott Dixon 200 Running

2. Vitor Meira 200 Running

3. Marco Andretti 200 Running

4. Helio Castroneves 200 Running

5. Ed Carpenter 200 Running

6. Ryan Hunter-Reay 200 Running

7. Hideki Mutoh 200 Running

8. Buddy Rice 200 Running

9. Darren Manning 200 Running

10. Townsend Bell 200 Running

11. Oriol Servia 200 Running

12. Dan Wheldon 200 Running

13. Will Power 200 Running

14. Davey Hamilton 200 Running

15. Enrique Bernoldi 200 Running

16. John Andretti 199 Running

17. Buddy Lazier 195 Running

18. Mario Moreas 194 Running

19. Milka Duno 185 Running

20. Bruno Junqueira 184 Running

21. A.J. Foyt IV 180 Accident

22. Danica Patrick 171 Accident

23. Ryan Briscoe 171 Accident

24. Tomas Scheckter 156 Mechanical

25. Alex Lloyd 151 Accident

26. E.J. Viso 139 Mechanical

27. Justin Wilson 132 Accident

28. Jeff Simmons 112 Accident

29. Tony Kanaan 105 Accident

30. Sarah Fisher 103 Accident

31. Jaime Camara 79 Accident

32. Marty Roth 59 Accident

33. Graham Rahal 13 Accident

Average Race Speed: 143.567 mph

Lead Changes: 18 among 9 drivers

Fastest Lap of Race: 224.037 Marco Andretti

Cautions: 8 for 69 laps

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