July 22, 2011
Returning champ can't buy a win
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Sometimes winning an IndyCar race can look easy.
Like here, last year.
There was Scott Dixon, driving along going into the last lap and pretty much resigned to his fate of finishing third behind two Penske cars.
That's when Helio Castroneves blocked teammate Will Power and suddenly Dixon was in second.
Then Castroneves was black-flagged.
Dixon didn't lead the race for a single lap.
Not even a single second.
And he won.
Then there's this year. He's virtually spent the entire season sitting second and third. And nothin'. Not one win.
"It's been an odd season," said Dixon as he stood at the end of pit row getting his first peek at the new layout for the Edmonton Indy prior to an hour-and-a-half walkabout later in the afternoon.
The New Zealander, who has won two of the last three Edmonton Indys, can't buy a win.
The two-time series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner who has so far won 24 IndyCar races in his nine years with Chip Ganassi's Target team, hasn't won a pole and hasn't won a race.
"It's kind of frustrating. It seems like I'm having a run of second-place finishes."
Dixon has qualified second three times and finished second three times, including the last series race two weekends ago in Toronto.
His Target teammate, Dario Franchitti, has won four races and has already amassed 353 points. He's so far ahead that he could decide to drive to Jasper and Banff this weekend, instead, and still lead the standings.
Power sits second at 298 and Dixon is third at 270.
"It's a big lead," said Dixon.
"It's one of those situations where it's your teammate in the lead, so this is great for the team. So no problem there. But sometimes it works that way with one driver and another.
"He's having one of those years you have every once in a while. He's had no bad luck. A few of the guys behind him, including myself, have had a lot of bad luck."
Third here two years ago, Dixon has a chance to be the first driver to win this race three times.
So, too, does two-time winner Sebastian Bourdais, who won the inaugural race in 2005, finished second in 2006 and won again in 2007, and is returning from Formula One racing.
Indeed, with Bourdais back, all the previous Edmonton Indy winners are here Ñ Justin Wilson (2006) and Power (2009) being the others.
Familiarity has already been breeding contempt in the series this year, especially with drivers calling each other "wankers" after the carnage at the Toronto Indy two weeks ago.
Dixon said he doesn't think too many of the heated words from Toronto will carry over.
"It's racing. We're trying to win. It's always the way it's going to be. You're fighting to get a piece of the track."
Like many of the drivers, one look at Turn 1 coming off the kilometre-long main straightaway, certainly has demolition-derby potential.
The top topic of conversation at every stop in the series this year has been the mess that the new double-file, side-by-side restarts this year have made of Turn 1 anywhere, much less the mother of Turn 1s here.
"I thought it would sort of wash out and even up for everybody, but so far it hasn't worked out for me," said Dixon.
"It's a big change from what it used to be," he offered as his first impressions of the new track at the opposite corner of City Centre Airport.
Dixon was a big fan of the original track layout here — not just because of the success he's enjoyed in Edmonton.
"The old course was fun. And it was demanding. I loved racing it. To me, it's a bit sad we're not still running it.
"But they've kept parts of that track," he said of the technical section at turns 7-8-9-10.
"And the parts they added, at first look, might make for even better racing.
"I'm just exited. To me, new tracks are always fun.
"Yeah, that's the bottom line. I'm just excited, man."