Scott Dixon gave Target Chip Ganassi Racing its first IndyCar victory of 2010 with a commanding performance at Kansas, leading teammate Dario Franchitti in a 1-2 sweep. It was the second straight win for Dixon, and the fourth straight for Ganassi on the 1.5-mile speedway.
The duo had run behind polesitter Ryan Briscoe (Penske) at first, swapping places in his wake when Dixon got too close to the Australian's rear wing and slid wide on lap 14. But Dixon soon repassed Franchitti and then hunted down Briscoe, taking the lead shortly before the first pit stops and then charging away from the field – leading by as much as seven seconds at times.
"It's huge. Winning at Kansas going into the month of May is a big deal," said Dixon. "Team Target has had a slow start to the season, but this is what we need and jump back into points table. It's certainly good to get that momentum going to Indy."
Franchitti jumped Briscoe for second at the first stops, then ran close behind Dixon for most of the rest of the race. Penske's Helio Castroneves got between them at the last stops, but Dixon had a cushion of lapped cars behind him at the final restart, so had no difficulty pulling away again. Castroneves was muscled back to fourth by Franchitti and Andretti Autosport's Tony Kanaan.
"After the first pit stop, it looked like Ryan, Scott and myself were pretty equal," related Franchitti. "Scott made a mistake, got loose and I got past him. And then Scott got back past me and towards the end of the stint, managed to get past Ryan. After that, Scott and I were running 1-2 in formation.
"He was a little bit quicker than I was, especially toward the end of the stint," the reigning series champion added of his teammate Dixon. "He was probably .2 or .3 mile-per-hour [faster] every lap. My balance was very good, but he was just quicker.
Franchitti added that the unhelpful behavior of slower cars on the restarts was another key to the outcome.
"On the final restart, it was tough," he said. "Again, just like Barber, it appears the race one or two or three laps down is more important than the lead-lap race. They're running side-by-side, driving up into the gray, giving absolutely no room to have the race in the front of the pack so that was very frustrating.
"I think Helio, Tony and myself were trying to make the best of it and trying to jump each other. I got past Helio and then I could see Tony coming on pretty strong. The last few laps, the car was really oversteering, but I kept it flat and managed to jump him.
Briscoe's chance of victory disappeared when his car shed a wheel under yellow. He got back to the pits and rejoined in the midfield, from where he fought back to sixth, just behind Andretti's Ryan Hunter-Reay, who made great progress from his lowly grid slot. But it was a poor race for championship leader Will Power in the third Penske. Never on the pace, the Australian fell right down the order after missing his mark on the first pit stops and losing a lot of time as his crew struggled to complete refueling. He finally finished 12th, but tried to look on the bright side.
"The car felt pretty good all day. The restarts were interesting and I definitely have a better idea of who I can work with out there," said Power. "Overall, I'm glad we ran as well as we did and I'm feeling good going into Indy."
Teammate Briscoe, too, was accentuating the positive. "It was an exciting race and we probably passed more cars than anyone else out there," he said. "Considering the day we had, I feel pretty good that we were able to finish on the lead lap and bring home a top-six finish. Hopefully, we can learn from today and go into the Indianapolis 500 in good shape."
Hideki Mutoh (Newman/Haas) and Takuma Sato (KV) were battling for top-six finishes after very strong drives until they collided while preparing for the last restart. Sato had previously escaped a pit exit collision with Milka Duno and had flown on his oval racing debut.
While EJ Viso – who briefly ran fifth until getting a pit speeding penalty – also went out with damage having brushed the wall, Mario Moraes at least gave KV a seventh-place finish.
Underdog qualifying stars Alex Tagliani (FAZZT) and Vitor Meira (Foyt) both came away with top-10 finishes. Tagliani had tumbled down the order in the first stint, then later fought through to eighth, while Meira held fourth, chasing the leaders, in the opening laps before slipping back to 10th. They were split by returnee John Andretti, making a strong debut for Andretti Autosport ahead of his Indianapolis 500 outing. Danica Patrick's hopes of an uptick in performance with the series' move to ovals were dashed as she struggled with a loose car to 11th place.
"Today was really disappointing because I think the GoDaddy car was actually pretty strong," she said. "I really wanted to enjoy a great run today, but it just didn't happen for us."
Having qualified in the 18th spot, Simona De Silvestro ran as high as 12th in her initiation to oval racing, although she faded back to 21st in the last stint.
Pos Driver Team Gap
1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 200 laps
2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 3.0528s
3. Tony Kanaan Andretti + 3.2210s
4. Helio Castroneves Penske + 3.8300s
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti + 6.1133s
6. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 6.7951s
7. Mario Moraes KV + 1 lap
8. Alex Tagliani FAZZT + 1 lap
9. John Andretti Andretti + 1 lap
10. Vitor Meira Foyt + 1 lap
11. Danica Patrick Andretti + 2 laps
12. Will Power Penske + 2 laps
13. Marco Andretti Andretti + 2 laps
14. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold + 2 laps
15. Dan Wheldon Panther + 2 laps
16. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon/de Ferran + 2 laps
17. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher + 2 laps
18. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold + 3 laps
19. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne + 3 laps
20. Bertrand Baguette Conquest + 3 laps
21. Simona de Silvestro HVM + 3 laps
22. Mario Romancini Conquest + 4 laps
Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas 186 laps
Takuma Sato KV 186 laps
Jay Howard Sarah Fisher 172 laps
Milka Duno Dale Coyne 84 laps
EJ Viso KV 71 laps