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Auto racing: Dixon ends IndyCar drought with win at Pocono

Published: Sunday, July 7, 2013 10:59 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP)
New Zealander Scott Dixon takes the checkered flag to win the Pocono IndyCar 400 on Sunday in Long Pond, Pa. He hadn't previously won since last August.

LONG POND, Pa. – Scott Dixon tentatively eyed his massive, nontraditional trophy, a hunk of dark rock accompanied by a bald eagle carrying an American flag.

Dixon, standing atop the podium moments after winning the IndyCar Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday afternoon, struggled to grip his heavy award. At Dixon’s sides, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti lent a hand to the New Zealander in raising the trophy in winner’s circle.

The victory was Dixon’s first in the IndyCar Series since last August, and as he pointed out, a milestone day for Honda cars and Ganassi Racing as its drivers finished 1-2-3 for the first time.

“It was good to get one out of the way this year and get on the top spot of the podium,” Dixon said. “But I think more importantly, just super-excited for the team. Everybody’s been working really hard and to have a glimpse of something great and things to be positive about, hopefully we can keep this momentum rolling.”

Dixon, who started in the 17th position, held off Kimball in Pocono’s first IndyCar race since 1989. The win was Dixon’s 30th in IndyCar, moving him into 10th all-time in career victories.

Kimball finished second ahead of Franchitti to match his career-best finish in the series.

“When I got out of bed this morning, I wouldn’t have guessed this,” Ganassi said.

“We know that if we took our teammates out, there’d be hell to pay,” Franchitti said. “But we were going for the win.”

As pleased as Ganassi’s team was on Sunday, Andretti Autosport had little to celebrate despite owning the top three spots in the starting lineup.

Pole-winner Marco Andretti led 88 of Sunday’s 160 laps – the most of any driver – but struggled with fuel mileage in his Chevrolet late in the race and finished 10th. The Nazareth, Pa., resident’s grandfather, Mario, won at Pocono in 1986, and his father, Michael, won the pole the same year.

Six of the top 10 finishers drove Hondas, with Chevrolet’s poor fuel mileage playing a major role as many drivers were forced to make untimely pit stops down the stretch.

“I mean, we knew early [about our fuel mileage], but not early enough,” Marco Andretti said. “I think we should have responded quicker, but it’s so hard to be reserved right now.”

Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe started second and third respectively, but both had early crashes that ended their chances at a win.

Dixon said before the race that he did not expect to lead the pack. But he’ll gladly take his first win in his last 13 races, a victory he called “a little bit of a shock.”

“That’s motor racing, man,” Dixon said. “There’s ups and downs and sometimes things are out of your control. But I’m very, very lucky to be doing what I’m doing.”

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