Dixon Gets Glen Hat Trick
July 8, 2007 | 4:17 P.M. EST
Dixon led the final 18 laps on the famed 3.4-mile circuit to win the Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix, beating Sam Hornish Jr. by 6.2591 seconds.
"This was one of my toughest races I've been involved in," Dixon said.
"This has been a great track for me. I look forward to coming to this place every year, and every year the Target Chip Ganassi team gives me a great car. Today, everything came our way. Over the last 10 laps, I was waiting for something to break."
It was the first victory of the season for Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara, who had scored four second-place finishes. The victory also ended a two-race winning streak for Dario Franchitti, who finished third in the No. 27 Canadian Club Honda. Franchitti retained the point lead, which is now 47 points over Dixon.
Hornish drove to a steady second for Team Penske. Andretti Green took the next three positions, with Franchitti followed by Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan. The team's fourth driver, Danica Patrick, finished 11th. Andretti used pit strategy to lead twice for nine laps.
Kanaan and Hornish made contact midway through the race when the two bumped while Hornish was attempting a pass. Following the race, Kanaan made a move towards Hornish's car as the pair were entering pit road. When the cars came to a stop, Hornish confronted Kanaan, and a brief scuffle broke out. Sam Hornish Sr. was thrown to the ground by an onlooker in the scuffle, while Marco Andretti restrained his father, Michael.
"Tony ran into the side of my car," Hornish said. "I got out and went over to talk to him about it. I was probably a louder in my voice than I needed to be, and he was loud with his. We were arguing about probably who's fault it was. It was a physically demanding race on a hot day, and everybody's tempers were running up there. I'm sure we all could have done it differently and waited until next weekend to talk about it. The only thing that bothered me about the situation is when you come into the pit road and you run into somebody. These guys out here doing the tire changes don't have cars around them to protect them like we do, and you don't want to take a chance of hurting somebody.
"Today was a day where I'm supposed to be happy with my first top-three on a road course, and we had to have all of this happen," Hornish said. "I'll just walk away next time."
Rounding out the top 10 were Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon, Kosuke Matsuura, Darren Manning and Jeff Simmons.
The complexion of the race changed on lap 20, when Castroneves lost control entering Turn 11, hitting the tires with first the rear and then front end. Castroneves bounced across the track and his car came to a stop. The driver quickly got out, and a fire was quickly extinguished.
“I have no idea what happened,” said Castroneves, who crashed out for the third time in five races. “They kept telling me to hold my line, while he (Dixon) kept pushing and pushing. Finally, that led to a mistake.”
Dixon was able to go by on the inside, while Franchitti hit debris while going by on the outside.
"It was pretty close," Dixon said. "I could see he had a few little wiggles on the entry, so I backed out of it a little bit. I knew he was going to run high, and I could get a run on him. I was lucky that I slowed a little, because he came back across the track pretty quick. He was close to us."
Castroneves led the opening 16 laps after claiming his third consecutive pole at The Glen. After Marco Andretti led a lap before pitting, Castroneves regained the lead — although Dixon began to put pressure on the leader. After making repeated challenges for three laps, Dixon took over when Castroneves went wide into the final turn — a 90-degree right-hander — and skated into the tire barrier, tagging with the left-rear first.
One lap after the restart, the yellow flag waved again when Anthony Foyt spun in the boot and needed help restarting. While the top three cars pitted, Vitor Meira stayed out to take the lead, followed by Dan Wheldon, Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti.
Meira led until running out of fuel in the Esses on lap 33, coasting to a stop in Turn 4. Meira had been running without telemetry, and was planning on pitting on the next lap. Andretti elected to stay out under the ensuing caution, taking the lead.
Dixon took the lead on lap 43 when Andretti made his final pit stop. Dixon made his final stop on lap 45, and managed to retain the point after a 7.3 second pit stop. Hornish exited the pits close behind in second, but Dixon managed to gradually extend his lead through the remainder of the race.
The IndyCar Series continues its busy summer stretch Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway, when it races for the fourth consecutive weekend. The 7:30 p.m. ET race will be televised live on ESPN.