Motorsport: Dixon's goal: Better luck this time

By Eric Thompson

NZ's IndyCar star keeps his hopes high as he faces a track where he's never won

New Zealand IndyCar frontrunner Scott Dixon hopes to put his run of bad luck at the Long Beach circuit in California behind him this weekend.

Dixon has raced there for 10 years and has yet to stand in the top spot on the podium at a track he likes.

At 32, Dixon is regarded as a veteran of the sport because he's been racing the category since the merger with CART in 2003.

He recently extended his contract again with Target Chip Ganassi and is in no hurry to either leave the team or the series.

Yet again, he has started the year strongly and after two rounds is second on the points table behind Helio Castroneves.

He said the last round, at the Barber Motorsport Park in Birmingham, Alabama, was "a crazy race".

"If we hadn't messed up the first pit stop it would have changed a lot of things.

"We got some good points, but it was a bummer to finish second there for the fourth time in a row."

Long Beach hasn't been the kindest of places for Dixon since he started racing there.

But he did win in 2000 in the Indy Lights series, which is the feeder category to the main game.

"We've had some crap luck there to be honest," he said. "Last year we were running third when a bolt fell out of the turbo, took out the crank sensor and cut the engine out.

"I've been running in the top two or three in past years but have been taken out by other drivers, mechanical problems and things.

"Hopefully this weekend we can turn it around."

He says the Long Beach circuit has a great history.

"It's one of those places like Sonoma and Indy where a lot of people want to come and win on it.

"It's a fun track and I like it. It's good for racing with long straights with passing opportunities at the end and it's quite technical."

IndyCar is unlike the other premier motorsport category in the United States, Nascar, as it makes its drivers race on numerous different types of tracks.

The teams have to set cars up for purpose-built race tracks, street courses, short ovals, long ovals (super speedways) and the Indianapolis 500.

Unlike Nascar, in which all but a couple of the 36 races are on high banked ovals, IndyCar enables drivers to specialise in different courses, which makes it difficult to pick an overall winner or get a handle on what the opposition is going to do.

"It's still too early in the season to be able to pick any trend yet and we'll have to see what happens when we've raced a few ovals," said Dixon. "Teams with a bit of depth have an advantage in turning things around after a bad day. It's going to be an interesting season that's for sure."

Before the season started, Dixon was a little concerned Honda hadn't done enough work on the engine to keep pace with the Chevrolet-powered cars. Things appear to be looking up but Dixon still feels Honda could be doing a bit more.

It's hard not to notice that in the championship only two Hondas are in the top 12.

"Honda think the engine's got a bit more power, which is kind of frustrating," he said. "Barber suited us, as it's not really a horsepower track.

"There's only one corner you need to be able to power out of and the rest of the place is pretty much flat out.

"I guess we'll just have to see how it goes at Long Beach as it's a different situation for us. We've definitely got a bit of work to do."

IndyCar points
After two rounds

Helio Castroneves 79

Scott Dixon 70

Ryan Hunter-Reay 66

Marco Andretti 61

James Hinchcliffe 56

Charlie Kimble 51

Tony Kannan 49

Will Power 47

- NZ Herald

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