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Dixon trying to turn series into 2-man race

Dixon trying to turn series into 2-man race

Dixon trying to turn series into 2-man race
July 16, 2007

GLADEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -If Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti keep racing like this, the IndyCar Series points race will be a two-man competition.

Franchitti leads the points through 11 races thanks to his three victories, including the Indianapolis 500, and his consistency. But Dixon, the man who had been coming up short of victory lane, now can't do anything but win.

Dixon won the rain-delayed Firestone Indy 200 on Sunday for his second straight IndyCar Series victory, becoming the 14th driver on this series to win consecutive races. Still, Franchitti managed to finish second for his 10th finish of fifth or better this year.

``Yeah, it's getting old,'' Dixon said. ``We've had two bad races so far this season. Not that I wish any bad luck on Dario, but we're due for ... one.''

Dixon, who won last week at Watkins Glen, started on the pole. He only had to look to his right to see Franchitti beside him on the front row at the Nashville Superspeedway, and Franchitti passed him on the opening lap and was at the front.

Then Dixon dipped to the inside on lap 88 and passed Franchitti, who had Dan Wheldon to his right, for the lead that he grabbed and ran away with in leading 105 laps for his second consecutive victory at the superspeedway.

That victory pared Franchitti's points lead down to 34. Wheldon now trails by 97 points followed by Tony Kanaan (103) and Sam Hornish Jr. (105). Kanaan dropped in the points after a crash on lap 36 knocked him out of the race.

Franchitti said there's still time for one of those drivers to work his way into the thick of the points race.

``It's looking more and more like a two-horse race,'' Franchitti said. ``But the problem you've got is there's probably six or seven cars can win each race. You've got to beat those guys.''

Dixon, who had the fastest car here in qualifying and in practice, would have had a bigger winning margin than 2.24 seconds with an average speed of 164.030 mph if not for a late caution. Lapped traffic that helped slow down the leaders kept Franchitti from making a serious run at Dixon.

Danica Patrick tied her career-best finish of third earlier this year at Texas. Sam Hornish Jr. was fourth followed by Marco Andretti.

Franchitti admitted he worried about trying to protect his spot in the points race instead of risking a pass earlier in the race. He had seen his teammate Kanaan, who is very good at holding onto a loose car, end his own race by losing his car in the bits of rubber chewed off the tires by the concrete track.

``Had I not been in the fight for the championship, I would have probably stuck the thing out in the marbles and see if I could have made the big outside pass,'' Franchitti said.

``I'd look pretty stupid to be in the position we're in with the car sitting in a smoking heap on the exit of Turn 2.''

Only eight of the 18 cars finished on the lead lap, and Patrick particularly pointed out Ed Carpenter, who finished 13th and three laps down, for slowing down the leaders.

``You need to let the people at the front have their race,'' Patrick said. ``That's what held me up the most. Carpenter was not cooperating, and we'll address that. There's no doubt about it.''

The race was the first IndyCar Series event delayed a day by rain since June 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dixon and his team made only a few changes to adapt a car from what was scheduled as a Saturday night race under the lights to a steamy day race.

That almost was a problem with too much downforce, giving too much grip.

``A little too much drag in this car, it's going to be too slow. ... As the day heated up, the track just got worse. We had enough grip to be good in traffic and keep it flat when we needed to,'' Dixon said.

The IndyCar Series now heads to Ohio for the fifth straight week of racing. Franchitti is hot with his three victories, including the Indianapolis 500. He has finished in the top five in 10 of this year's 11 races, including eight where he has been third or better.

Dixon likes where he's at, closing in on Franchitti and the lead.

``We've kind of got nothing to lose now. We can just go as hard as we possibly can and try and go for race wins. That's what we struggled with at the first part of the season where maybe we were a little too reserved,'' he said.

``Now we've got to go all out and try to get as many wins as possible.''

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