Motorsport: Dixon hopes good start continues

The last time New Zealand IndyCar driver Scott Dixon got an early-season flyer, he went on to win his second championship.

The fast Kiwi has had two second-place finishes at the opening rounds of the championship at St Petersburg, Florida and Barber, Alabama, and is only two points behind series leader Helio Castroneves.

The two-time IRL champion and Indianapolis 500 winner heads to Long Beach, California, this weekend for race three of the championship having led the most laps at each event and is looking good for another podium finish.

The news 11 teams who are running the Chevrolet engine have had to swap them out can only bode well for Dixon. The drivers, including points leader Castroneves and third-place man Will Power, will be penalised 10 grid spots before the start of the race gifting the Honda-powered Dixon his best chance to get ahead of the pack.

"It'll make qualifying interesting to see how hard some of the guys will want to go so as not to drop too far back [after penalty] on the starting grid," Dixon said. "It's a tough track here at Long Beach and it's very difficult to get a whole lap together as far getting all your best segments into one lap. Some of the places on the track are about compromise. Technically, it's quite difficult as well as mentally.

"It's a fun place to race, though, and if you start back in the pack you have an opportunity to get to the front because of the long straights."

In another twist to the weekend's race, rules around yellow flag incidents have changed. Previously, during a full course yellow flag the pits have been closed until the field is in order and then it was a mad rush as all the cars piled into the pits at once causing chaos.

Now the pits will be opened right from the start of a full course yellow.

"The pits now staying open could catch a few out," Dixon said. "It's hard to see exactly how it's going to play out until after the weekend but the leader could get hung out if there's a caution at turn five and the cars behind get to pit, especially if there's a pace car on the course.

"You're doubly screwed then, and all the way down the back."

While most drivers would be happy to be sitting second in the championship with a hefty amount of points so early on, Dixon is a little miffed with the team's performance last time out.

"I was happy with the first race at St Pete, but at Barber we stood on our own d**ks, to be honest, with strategy and the pit situation [when we had a slow stop due to wheel nut issues]. It was a tough day and we got caught up a couple of times on the track as well.

"I was more disappointed that we didn't win at Barber than St Pete. Hopefully we'll be able to turn it around this weekend."

Dixon's best finish in five career starts on the streets of Long Beach was fourth in 2010.

IndyCar points after two rounds

Helio Castroneves 86
Scott Dixon 84
Will Power 77
James Hinchcliffe 60
Simon Pagenaud 58
Ryan Hunter-Reay 53

- APNZ

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