Archive for Sunday, August 24, 2003

Dixon fastest in practice for Firestone Indy 225

August 24, 2003

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— Polesitter Scott Dixon is hoping speed will be the decisive factor in the IRL race today at Nazareth Speedway.

He was very fast Saturday, backing up the quickest practice lap of the weekend by winning the pole for the Firestone Indy 225.

The New Zealander will be seeking his second career victory on this 1-mile oval. In a CART race in 2001, Dixon became at 20 years, 9 months, 14 days the youngest driver to take a major open-wheel event.

But Dixon hopes this time he can win with a formula other than fuel mileage.

"The team definitely helped me last time," he said. "But we've got the speed this time. I would prefer to win it by being the fastest."

He took the top spot for the race with a fast lap of 171.182 mph in a Toyota-powered G Force. The run gave him his fifth pole of the season, which leads the circuit.

The pole left him one short of Billy Boat's 1997 record of six. It also gives Dixon a chance to dominate the way he did two months ago, when he led all 206 laps at the three-quarter-mile Richmond International Raceway.

"I'd love to lead every lap again," Dixon said. "But there are some guys who are going to be fighting hard."

Foremost among them should be Helio Castroneves. Team Penske's Castroneves, second in the standings just eight points behind leader Tony Kanaan, took the outside of the front row with a run at 170.849 in a Dallara-Toyota.

"He's very strong," Castroneves said of Dixon. "It's not so much who's the fastest but who's the best in traffic. I feel very confident."

The narrow track with an extremely sharp first turn can present problems for cars starting on the outside. But Castroneves was not concerned about Dixon squeezing him toward the outside wall on the start.

"We're both professionals, and nobody is going to make a stupid move and take anybody out on the first lap," Castroneves said, but vowed not to concede the lead. "I'm going to go for it, but do nothing to risk valuable points."

Seeking his series-leading fourth win this season, Dixon has been impressive since they unloaded his Chip Ganassi-owned car from the transporter. He posted the second-fastest lap in practice Friday and was the fastest in the morning warmup before qualifying.

Still, his time test was slower than the 172.778 set last year by Gil de Ferran in the first Nazareth race for the IRL. CART competed at the track in the Lehigh Valley from 1987 through 2001.

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