Originally created 06/05/06

Dixon wins at The Glen for second straight year

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Scott Dixon's luck at Watkins Glen is intact. Marco Andretti is searching for some.

Dixon won a slippery battle of attrition that took out the 19-year-old rookie and several others, holding off Vitor Meira and Ryan Briscoe in a one-lap shootout Sunday to capture the IRL Indy Grand Prix for the second straight year.

"We definitely have a bit of luck here," said Dixon, who broke a 40-race winless streak with his victory here last September in the inaugural Indy GP. "It was extremely tough because of the conditions. It was hard to tell how hard to push it."

The ugly, ever-changing weather - showers came and went all day and temperatures were in the mid-50s - made the fifth race of the 14-race IRL season a guessing game right from the start over the 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course. Drivers switched back and forth from slicks to rain tires and endured multiple yellow flags as cars repeatedly spun.

At the end, the top four cars were on slicks as rain again began to fall, and Buddy Rice led a group with rain tires trying in vain to run down the leader, who held on through two cautions after taking the lead on lap 47. But Dixon's slicks held on, and he led the last eight laps, winning for the fifth time in the IRL.

"I was a bit worried about it," said Dixon, who moved into second place in the points standings with 170, 12 behind Helio Castroneves. "Everybody was on the radio, I couldn't hear anybody. It was just too risky (to change tires)."

"It was his call," team owner Chip Ganassi said. "I wasn't driving the car."

For much of the race, it seemed as though Andretti might build on his second-place finish last week in the Indianapolis 500. Instead, his day ended in anger and frustration.

Andretti was charging hard - he had just completed the fastest lap of the race by any driver and was running third - his starting position - when he attempted to pass the lapped car of Eddie Cheever on lap 39. But as he swung around the much slower car, Cheever drove into Andretti's left side, slamming him into the guard rail and a tire barrier coming into turn 11.

Andretti raised his fist in anger after climbing from the cockpit, as his father, Michael, steamed in the pits.

"It was so blatant, he does it all the time," Michael Andretti said. "The guy doesn't belong on the racetrack. He takes the kid out. Just stupid."

"Blatant, absolutely on-purpose deal," said Marco, who last week became the first driver to lose the lead on the last lap of the Indianapolis 500 when he was passed by winner Sam Hornish Jr.

Despite his youth and relative inexperience next to the 48-year-old Cheever, Andretti didn't hold his frustration back.

"If he didn't know I was there, come on, that's a little scary," Andretti said. "You're in the wrong business. There won't be a discussion, I can tell you that. The car was a contender. The car felt so good."

Cheever, who also collided with Andretti in practice prior to the second race of the season in St. Petersburg, blamed the wreck on his battle for control on new tires.

"I didn't have any problem with him getting by," Cheever said. "It was just bad circumstances. I was doing everything I could to keep the car straight. There was no room for me to move. He passed me on the high side."

The track was damp at the start, and the cars began with rain tires. But as it began to dry, crews began switching to slicks. Tomas Scheckter was the first to make the switch - he came in on lap five and he gained the lead on the ninth lap and kept it until heading for pits on lap 22, giving Dan Wheldon the top spot.

The tricky conditions took a toll early. Hornish, Rice, Dario Franchitti, Kosuke Matsuura, rookie Jeff Simmons, and Danica Patrick all spun out in the first 19 laps, causing four of the race's seven cautions.

Meira, who drives for underfunded Panther Racing, matched his career-best finish and moved to sixth place in the points.

"I'm happy for the team," Meira said. "We are looking real hard for sponsorship. It shows that even without the right amount of funding we're there."

The track continued to dry as the race wore on and pit strategy became a factor. Wheldon dove into the pits for fuel when Andretti brought out the caution, but the defending IRL champ snapped a half shaft trying to leave and was finished for the day.

Polesitter Helio Castroneves finished seventh.

It was the first IRL race for Briscoe since his fiery crash last September at Chicagoland Speedway. Briscoe, who suffered a concussion, two broken clavicles, a bruised lung and contusions to his arms and legs in the fiery wreck, co-drove in the six-hour Rolex Sports Car Series race here on Saturday and the team finished third. His finish Sunday was his best in the IRL.


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