New Zealand driver Scott Dixon relished a return to oval track racing and took advantage of a lucky break to win the Kansas Indy 300 this morning (NZ time).

It was a remarkable return to form for the defending Indy Car series champion, who placed 16th and 15th through the first two rounds of the championship.

Those races on track circuits California and Florida were marred by technical problems but Dixon felt right at home at the high-speed circular venue which was struck by strong winds today.

It was the Aucklander's 17th career win and 11th on an oval track and will be an enormous boost ahead of the defence of his Indy 500 crown at Indianapolis on May 25.

"This is a big boost for my confidence, the team's confidence and a lot of momentum going into the month of May, which is our biggest race," Dixon told reporters.

"We needed something, even a sniff something because so far all we had was a sniff of the tail-end of the field.

"That's frustrating and I was starting to look back on 2004 and how that was a dismal season after winning a championship. I know the team can do it; we just need to get everything right."

Even though he has previously stated a preference for track racing, Dixon has recorded six wins in his 12 starts on ovals and hasn't finished lower than fourth.

He drove an error-free race today to head off Helio Castroneves by 0.7 seconds. Another Brazilian, Tony Kanaan, was third and inherits the series lead.

A key moment came in lap 155 of the 200-lap race when Dixon made a clean final pit stop during a confusing caution flag period when the race had to be restarted.

Australian Ryan Briscoe led at the time and was going into the pits for tires and fuel when Scotsman and former series leader Dario Franchitti slammed into the wall, sending up the yellow flag.

Track officials didn't allow Briscoe to stop and he lost position, returning to the track in fourth place after pitting with the rest of the field.

It left Briscoe's team owner Roger Penske furious.

"He went into the pits before it went yellow, then they said we couldn't work on the car," he said.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life. We were in the pits before it went yellow, so I think the officials really have to take a look at that. It may have cost us the race."

Starting fourth on the grid, Dixon improved quickly to second before a slick inside move saw him pass pole sitter Graham Rahal in the ninth lap.

Dixon improves from 15th to fourth in the standings through three rounds behind, in order, Kanaan, Briscoe and Castroneves.

Dixon's wife Emma was the happiest person at the packed Kansas City speedway.

"I'm so glad that he won today, he's been grumpy for three weeks," she said.

- NZPA