Dixon Whistles to Win in Wild Finish
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 on the track 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.”
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.
“It was a long day in the office, but that means we achieved our first goal, which was to finish the race with no damage to the car,” Servia said.
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.
But Kanaan had problems in traffic of his own when Viso spun.
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 took 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.
Pruett, Rojas Sprint to Grand-Am Win
Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas teamed to give car owner Chip Ganassi his first Grand-Am Rolex Series victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, winning the Gainsco Grand Prix of Miami in the No. 01 Telmex Lexus Riley.
The pair followed up their season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, where they were joined by Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti, to keep the team perfect in 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 competition.
Pruett drove the final two hours, 10 minutes of the 2:45 event, taking over from Rojas on lap 23 after Rojas had led in the early going. Pruett took the lead 1:07 into the event on lap 42 of the originally scheduled 109-lap event.
“Our car was really hooked up,” said Pruett following his 16th record-extending career Rolex Series victory. “I could go low, high, to the inside, to the outside, literally any place I wanted. It was really hooked up – one of the best cars I’ve had in a long time.”
The event came down to a seven minute sprint following the ninth and final caution. Pruett again pulled away on the restart, winning by 1.645 seconds over the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford of Joey Hand and defending Miami winner Bill Auberlen.
Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri took third in the Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, followed by Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens i the Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley and Gene Sigal and Matt Plump in the Rum Bum BMW Riley.
The race saw five different engine manufacturers in the top five.
Pruett led 41 laps after Rojas led 10 circuits early in the race.
The race was slowed by nine cautions, with 40 of the 99 laps under yellow.
The most significant incident came on lap 44, two laps after
Pruett had taken the lead. Michael Valiante was running third in the debut of the SunTrust Pontiac Dallara he shared with Max Angelelli. Pole sitter David Donohue, running fourth in the Brumos Porsche Riley, spun and hit the Dallara, dropping both teams from contention.
Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins won in GT in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP, holding off the TRG Porsche GT3 of Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr.
by 1.6 seconds.
“I learned my lesson after my first restart,” said Edwards after his ninth Rolex Series victory. “The Porsche had 5-6 mph on us on the straight, so I had to defend my line in Turn 1. I got a good gap behind the DP cars coming to the restart, and I timed it so I could get a good run into Turn 1. We made huge changes on the car since Thursday practice – bigger changes that we’d like to make on a race weekend – but it worked out. This is awesome. This is the momentum we need, and now we go to Mexico City, which is a great track for us.”
The Grand Prix of Miami was part of SpeedJam.