Dixon Wet Richmond Winner
June 28, 2003 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Dixon led every lap before a heavy thunderstorm arrived June 27 at Richmond International Raceway and forced the race to end after 206 of 250 scheduled laps on the three-quarter mile oval. It was the first time in IRL IndyCar Series history that a driver has led every lap of a race.
It was the third victory of the season for Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force and his second in a row. No other driver has won more than once this season.
"I'm just so excited," Dixon said. "Back to back after Pikes Peak. Basically, now all we wanted to do was to have consistency and get some points. We are ecstatic and just know that now we really have to be focused on getting all the points that we can to chase down Tony Kanaan."
Dixon averaged a race-record 106.798 mph and earned $136,800 for the victory. He stayed in second in the standings but reduced Kanaan's series lead from 49 to 27 points, 247-220.
Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran finished second and third, respectively, in their Dallara/Toyota/Firestone cars, giving Toyota a sweep of the top three spots. This was the sixth victory in seven races this season for Toyota.
Two-time defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. finished a season-best fourth in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara. It was the best finish of the season for a Chevrolet-powered car.
Kanaan was fifth in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara.
Light rain started to fall on Lap 198, triggering the last of five caution periods. The rain intensified, causing the race to be called on Lap 206.
The victory completed arguably the most dominant event for a driver in Indy Racing League history. Dixon led all three practice sessions and won the MBNA Pole on Friday and then led every lap of the race. He also led both days of the series Open Test on May 22-23 at the Richmond "bullring."
"I think, even from day one when we tested here, the car has been great," Dixon said. "I seem to like the mile circuits and even smaller, so I really had a good time tonight. We really came through."
Despite his dominance, Dixon only was able to pull away from the rest of the field during the last 10 laps. His lead over Castroneves grew to 4.2 seconds on Lap 193 after the lead hovered around one second or less for much of the race. Lapped traffic on the tight-confines oval prevented Dixon from gaining a big advantage.
"We are getting there," Castroneves said. "Don't worry, we are going to catch them. It is a shame because traffic is a big factor here. For sure, they are doing a good job, but we are coming back. We had a terrible result at Pikes Peak. Now we are coming back. Wait for the next one."
Said de Ferran, who recorded his fourth consecutive top-10 finish: "I don't know if we would have caught the leader. Both Helio and Scott were real strong. We were pushing like qualifying those last few laps there. It was very, very tight. In traffic I was just waiting for an opportunity."
Hornish scrambled more than any other driver to finish in the top five. He started third but an early pit-road collision forced him to climb from the middle of the pack.
On Lap 61, Hornish was exiting his pit stall and collided with Felipe Giaffone, who was entering his stall. Hornish was forced to return to the pits twice in the next 11 laps for the Pennzoil Panther crew to check the steering. The front suspension was slightly bent by the contact.
Then on Lap 92, the handling of Hornish's car became very loose. He was ninth on Lap 135 before starting a drive toward the top five filled with wheel-to-wheel, inches-apart passing of cars on the lead lap and lapped traffic. Hornish passed Kanaan for fourth place in Turn 2 on Lap 185.
"We had a really good handling car and kind of some of that luck that we haven't had this year," Hornish said. "We were doing the right things on the racetrack. We haven't had the best of luck in the pits this year. It's kind of one thing after another. It's fun to go out there and pass people, but sooner or later, we're going to get there."
Vitor Meira and rookie A.J. Foyt IV were unhurt in separate accidents.
The next IRL IndyCar Series race is the Kansas Indy 300 on July 6 at Kansas Speedway. The Aventis Racing For Kids 100 IRL Infiniti Pro Series race takes place the same day at the 1.5-mile Kansas oval.