Originally created 03/03/03

Dixon holds off de Ferran



HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Scott Dixon won his Indy Racing League debut, grabbing the lead during his final pit stop and easily holding off Gil de Ferran in Sunday's Toyota Indy 300.

The 22-year-old New Zealander took the lead from de Ferran on the 148th lap of the 200-lap event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dixon beat the more experienced Brazilian to the finish by 0.057 seconds - about six car-lengths.

"I picked up spots just about every time I pitted," Dixon said.

The last driver to win his first IRL start was Juan Montoya, who won the 2000 Indianapolis 500 (his only IRL race).

He passed Helio Castroneves, de Ferran's Marlboro Team Penske teammate, for second place on lap 140 and drove onto pit road in second.

"We got alongside Gil coming into the pits, which probably helped a little," said Dixon, whose only CART victory was at Nazareth, Pa., in 2001.

He averaged 153.710 mph.

De Ferran appeared to have the fastest car most of the day and led a race-high 92 laps. But he knew he was in trouble when he got behind.

Dixon "just barely beat us out, but once in first, he was awfully strong," said de Ferran, a two-time CART series champion and third in the season points last year. "We were very evenly matched. I tried to get around him, but it wasn't working."

Dixon, who drove for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing in CART last season, moved to the IRL over the winter. Ganassi dropped out of CART and went from one IRL car to two.

Teammate Tomas Scheckter also drove a solid race, putting his Toyota-powered G Force eighth, the last car on the lead lap.

Sam Hornish Jr., the two-time defending series champion, had severe handling problems and never was a challenger for a third straight Homestead win. He fell behind by two laps at one point and finished 10th, one lap behind Dixon.

"We didn't have what it took to win today," Hornish said.

Asked if the Chevy engine was part of the problem, he said, "It's hard to tell. You've got to have the car handling perfect to be able to say whether or not the engine is doing what it's supposed to."

It was the second straight year that de Ferran and Castroneves, who came to the IRL in 2002, finished 2-3 here.

Sunday was also the IRL debut for all-new G Force and Dallara chassis and Toyota and Honda engines.

Toyota easily won the first round in the 16-race series, sweeping the top three positions and taking four of the top five. Hornish was the top finisher for Chevrolet, which dominated last year. The next Chevrolet was Sarah Fisher's car, which finished 15th in the 21-car field.

Tony Kanaan, who started from the pole, swapped the lead with teammate and boss Michael Andretti in the early going, but wound up fading to fourth. Andretti, who bought a CART team and brought it to IRL this season, finished sixth and Dario Franchitti, the team's third driver, was seventh.

The race was slowed by four caution flags, three of them for single-car crashes by rookie Scott Mayer, Jaques Lazier and Robbie Buhl. None was injured.



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