Motorsport: So close ... third title beckons Dixon

By Eric Thompson

Scott Dixon out in front - and hoping to stay that way tomorrow. Photo / AP
Scott Dixon out in front - and hoping to stay that way tomorrow. Photo / AP

New Zealand IndyCar driver Scott Dixon is determined to nail his third IRL title this weekend in the season finale at Fontana, California.

To give himself every chance of success in tomorrow's (NZ time) race, Dixon and his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team have decided to fit a new engine to the number nine car.

As a result, no matter where Dixon qualifies he'll be hit with a 10-place grid penalty.

His nearest rival in the race for the championship, Helio Castroneves, is only 25 points behind and he, too, has decided to fit a new engine.

The 800km race is tough on engines, and because of the length of the race, and ease of overtaking, making up the ground lost through the penalty shouldn't be too much of a problem for the title contenders.

Dixon has had his work cut out getting himself into contention this year.

At one stage early in the season the Kiwi was in eighth, looking at another season going begging. But Dixon knuckled down and went about his business on a race-to-race basis, and sure enough things turned around at Pocono where he began a three-race winning streak.

He picked up another win a few races later to end up leading the series before the last race this weekend.

"Every year is different and this year we've put ourselves in a good position with one race to go," said Dixon.

"But it all can be taken away just as quickly as it comes your way. You just have to look at Helio and the 74-point flip that happened to him. You wouldn't have thought that was possible.

"We'll go out there strong and just run our race and try and win. If we win the race, that takes care of the championship plain and simple.

"But The Chevy cars are going to be strong and the Penske guys will be pulling out all the stops.

"It's been such a mixed year and Helio has really been the only one who has been consistent all season until last weekend. Up until then he'd finished every single race - 16 races in a row - that's almost unheard of.

"We started the season strong, bottomed out, then hit the rebound again winning, then crashed out after that and then came good again. It's been a rocky road that's for sure."

A fair amount of the grief involving Dixon in recent races has come via Australian driver Will Power who has been a factor in a chunk of Dixon's misfortune this year.

The pair seem to have a fatal on-track attraction for each other and it's gotten a bit tense at times with Dixon being fined by the organisers for speaking his mind.

"We get on pretty well off the track, but Will is an interesting bloke," Dixon said. "Normally we have a lot of respect for each other during races, but Baltimore was the exception. Then things got a bit rough in race two at Houston.

"I'm sure he'll be okay this weekend and race smart. I'm sure he doesn't want to be the guy who's known as influencing how the championship pans out."

Dixon has only to finish fifth or better to win his third title, regardless of where his rivals finish. If he leads a lap or picks up other bonus points, he'll need only a sixth-place finish.

With Dario Franchitti out injured after his airborne crash in Huston, Alex Tagliani has been drafted in to be Dixon's wingman for the race.

"It's kind of funny how it's all turned around with Helio and the championship," Dixon said. "I've been trying to chase him all season and because of his dramas in the last race weekend, he now has to chase me. We'll just go out there and ... do our own thing and try to win."

- NZ Herald

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