Kanaan Wrecks Dixon Wins

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – In a stunning turn of events, Scott Dixon won Saturday’s season-opening Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300 after race leader Tony Kanaan tangled with a lapped car only seven laps from the finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Dixon, shuffled back after dominating the early stages of the event from the pole, beat Marco Andretti in a three-lap sprint to the checkered flag by .5828 seconds in the first race of the unified IndyCar Series.

Kanaan passed race-leading Andretti Green Racing teammate Andretti on lap 161, and regained the point on the final exchange of green flag pit stops. However, when Ernesto Viso spun with seven laps remaining, Kanaan grazed the spinning car, bending his right-front wheel. Kanaan remained out during the brief caution, and was quickly passed by Dixon at the restart with three laps remaining.

“We were catching him quick,” Dixon said after recording his 11th career victory for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. “It would have been close at the end. Tony and Marco were quick, but were had a strong car on long runs.

"It was one of those races where we didn't exactly have the speed all the time, but we still came out on top," Dixon said. "If you can have races like that and still come out on top, that's a great way to take some points away from others and hopefully it works for the rest of the season.”

Dan Wheldon, Dixon’s teammate seeking his fourth consecutive victory at Homestead, finished third, followed by Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves, the final car on the lead lap.

Ed Carpenter, Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Anthony Foyt and Vitor Meira rounded out the top 10.

The race marked the beginning of a new era in American open-wheel racing, with eight cars fielded by former Champ Car World Series teams. Oriol Servia led the transition drivers by finishing 12th, with two of the drivers involved in incidents down the stretch that played a key role in the race.

Andretti took the lead on lap 74 when he passed Dixon on the 74th circuit, and seemed headed to his second career IndyCar Series triumph – and first on an oval circuit. However, he bobbled coming up to lap rookie Mario Moraes, and that was the opening Kanaan had been waiting for.

However, Kanaan had problems in traffic of his own when Viso spun.

"The race is not won until the checkered flag," Kanaan said. "With 10 laps to go I was looking around and thinking, 'This looks too easy.' This was a misfortune, yes. But how many times have I won races because some other guy was unlucky?"

Andretti passed pole sitter Dixon for the lead on lap 74, and maintained the point after 133 of the 200 laps.

Wheldon worked his way up to second after starting at the back of the pack when he crashed in Friday night’s qualifying.

The race was slowed only three times for 24 laps for caution. There was one early in the race for debris on lap 20, and the second flag waved on lap 127, when Milka Duno tangled with new Penske Racing driver Ryan Briscoe, who was running fifth.

Second and third qualifiers Carpenter and Foyt were also at the back of the grid for the start. Wheldon crashed in qualifying, when the Vision Racing teammates failed post-qualifying inspection.

Dixon the pole Friday night with a four-lap average speed of 213.341 mph. He was joined on the front row by Andretti Green Racing's Patrick, starting at the front of the 25-car field.

Dixon averaged a race-record 171.248 mph. Dixon led three times for 67 laps, while Andretti led three times for 85 circuits and Kanaan three times for 35 laps. Wheldon (nine laps) and Castroneves (four) also led.

The race featured eight cars from teams that formerly competed in the Champ Car World Series. The teams had only one month to prepare the Honda-powered Dallara chassis exclusively used in the IndyCar Series. Champ Car formerly used turbocharged Cosworth-powered Panoz cars. Two of them, driven by Justin Wilson and Will Power, touched on a lap 25 restart, putting Power out of the race.

"I think everybody was using their heads," Dixon said. "The guys who came in from Champ Car were fantastic. They were giving everybody room and they drove a great clean race."

The IndyCar Series teams have only eight days before Round 2, next Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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