Rexall Edmonton Indy
Dixon on Cruise Control
by Esteban Morales
July 26, 2008
Few drivers on the IndyCar circuit elicit as much controversy as Paul Tracy. Love him or hate him, the Thrill from West Hill returned to open wheel racing at the Rexall Edmonton Indy with a bang. Despite starting deep in the field after an unlucky qualifying session, Tracy drove a smart race and finished one spot shy of the podium. Tracy was happy to finish fourth but was quick to note that “with a little more practice and…not sitting on the couch for the last six months” he might have finished on the podium. Ahead of Tracy, Justin Wilson put Newman Haas Lanigan back on the map by collecting his first podium of the season while Helio Castroneves finished a frustrating second to points leader Scott Dixon.
After recently collecting his second win of the season, Ryan Briscoe started from pole for the IndyCar Series’ first appearance in Canada. Briscoe briefly led his teammate Castroneves through the start of the event before losing the lead on the fourth lap. Briscoe locked his front tires and ran wide while Castroneves stuck to his line and took over at the head of the field. Castroneves, who was looking for his first win of the year and an opportunity to close on Dixon’s points lead, stretched his lead to a little over three seconds by lap 15. Further back in the pack Dixon steadily ran in the fourth position while Paul Tracy worked his way up to tenth after starting 16th before the first yellow flag. IndyCar officials slowed the field on lap 19 when Vitor Meira had an off and made contact at pit in.
Though most of the field used the yellow as an opportunity to pit, Andretti Green Racing kept Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan out. Andretti led for a handful of laps before the event went back to yellow after teammate Hideki Mutoh spun and hit the Turn 14 tire barrier. The AGR crew chose a questionable strategy and pitted Kanaan but left Andretti in the lead. One lap after the lap 33 restart, Castroneves easily drove past Andretti in the first turn. Andretti then lost second place to Briscoe before pitting and falling back to 20th. Castroneves remained unchallenged at the front before the yellow flag was unfurled for the third time when Townsend Bell had a hard off in the first turn. Kanaan, A.J. Foyt IV, Buddy Rice and Ed Carpenter, who were on alternate strategies took over at the front when Castroneves led the rest of the field into pit lane. Dixon may not have known it at the time, but his crew’s quick pit work set the scene for his fifth victory of the season. Dixon won the race out of the pits and quietly restarted the event in the fifth position.
Two laps after the restart Foyt IV had a brief stint as the leader after Kanaan spun out of the lead. Kanaan regained the lead before the last caution flew when E.J. Viso punted Graham Rahal out of the event. The Ganassi crew’s earlier pit work paid dividends when Kanaan pitted and Dixon emerged on point ahead of Castroneves. Hungry for his first victory of the season, Castroneves kept Dixon within a half second. While the battle at the front engaged fans, AGR’s Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti caused a few chuckles deeper in the field. Andretti made a rookie mistake by misjudging his entry into Turn 10 and puncturing Patrick’s left rear tire with his front wing. Though Patrick slid off the course and Andretti circled the track with a broken wing, race control kept the race green. Castroneves continued to pressure Dixon for the lead but locked his tires heading into the first turn. With Castroneves now 4.5 seconds behind, Dixon made winning his fifth race of the year look easy.