By Jeff Olson
Scott Dixon passed Ryan Briscoe with 24 laps remaining Sunday and went on to win the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at The Milwaukee Mile.
Briscoe, who led most of the race, got hung up behind a lapped car driven by Tomas Scheckter, giving Dixon an opening on the inside. Briscoe held on to second place, followed by Dixon’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Dario Franchitti, and Graham Rahal.
The move angered team owner Roger Penske, who complained that Scheckter was impeding Briscoe, but neither Briscoe nor Dixon said Scheckter was the issue.
“You can’t really use traffic; you just have to time it right,” Dixon said. “You’ve got to try to look ahead and see where the other guys are using their lines – see if they’re on the bottom of top. You’ve got to see the quickest way around. Luckily for me, my car was fantastic on the high line around 1 and 2. A lot of people were driving through the middle, so I could get a good run. You get good timing sometimes, but other times it will bite you in the ass.”
Briscoe said his No. 6 Team Penske Dallara-Honda just didn’t have as much momentum as Dixon’s No. 9 Target Ganassi Dallara-Honda. “Scott was just a little bit better than me at the end there,” Briscoe said. “He got me in traffic. I was struggling with a little bit of understeer, and whenever I’d get on the inside I’d really lose momentum. He was there all day long and took the opportunity to pass me when I got slowed up.”
Traffic also was an issue for other top finishers, who struggled to get past slower cars while the groove narrowed as the race went on. “The hard thing was lapped cars,” Franchitti said. “It was traffic, timing your passes right. I tried hard to pass Ryan at the end, but when he was taking my air there was nothing I could do.”
Dixon’s second victory of the season gave him the lead in the IndyCar Series standings after five races by four points over Briscoe and Franchitti. That’s quite a turnaround from Dixon’s position after the first two races – 16th at St. Petersburg and 15th at Long Beach. “We gave up our two bad races in the first two races,” said Dixon, the defending IndyCar Series champion. “We just have to maintain and get as many points as possible. It’s going to be a tough season no matter what, but we knew then that we had to make up as many points as possible.”
Danica Patrick followed up her third-place finish at Indianapolis with a fifth-place effort Sunday. That put her fourth in points, the highest she’s been in the standings this late in a season. For Sunday’s finish, she credited patience.
“I just took it easy,” she said. “I knew at the beginning that I wasn’t over-hustling the car, and I could see some other cars that were definitely pushing it. I thought it was going to come to me a little bit, and it did.”
Raphael Matos, who ran well at Indy before crashing with Vitor Meira late in the race, finished sixth Sunday. Another driver who crashed out of the 500, Marco Andretti, finished seventh Sunday. Hideki Mutoh, Mario Moraes and Dan Wheldon rounded out the top 10.
Dixon, who had struggled with Milwaukee since his first race here in 2004 – “We crashed twice in four laps in 2004; that must be a record,” he said – finally conquered the track that has given him so many problems.
“It’s an extremely tough track,” Dixon said. “We just waited patiently. We were consistently happy. The car was good in traffic.”
Briscoe, who won at Milwaukee last year, came in second with an effort that kept him in the championship heading into Saturday’s race at Texas.
“Scott got the better of us, but we scored some points and we’re still in it,” Briscoe said. “That’s the important part. If you can’t win them, you’ve got to take what you can get. I thought we did a good job this week.”
Helio Castroneves, the Indy 500 winner who crashed and qualifying and had to start last in the 20-car race, struggled to stay on the lead lap and settled for an 11th-place finish. “This is one of those days when it feels like there are 700 laps to go,” he said.
Paul Tracy, in his first race as Meira's replacement with A.J. Foyt Racing, said he wasn't sure if he would continue with the team after his 17th-place finish. "It was like a dirt car out there," Tracy said. "I was just trying to keep it off the wall."
The season resumes Saturday night with the Bombardier Learjet Indy 550 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race begins at 9:40 p.m. ET and will be televised live by Versus.RESULTS:
Pos Driver Team Gaps
1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 225 laps
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 2.1257s
3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 2.2644s
4. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 2.6744s
5. Danica Patrick Andretti Green + 5.9824s
6. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon +15.8877s
7. Marco Andretti Andretti Green +17.9448s
8. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green + 1 lap
9. Mario Moraes KV + 1 lap
10. Dan Wheldon Panther + 1 lap
11. Helio Castroneves Penske + 3 laps
12. Ryan Hunter-Reay Vision + 3 laps
13. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold + 3 laps
14. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 5 laps
15. Justin Wilson Coyne + 6 laps
16. Ed Carpenter Vision + 6 laps
17. Paul Tracy Foyt + 6 laps
EJ Viso HVM 175 laps
Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 132 laps
Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 55 laps