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Racing insider: Dixon, Ganassi seeking another title

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 11:36 p.m.

If Scott Dixon was a card-toting member of the PGA Tour, he would be characterized as a grinder — someone who plows along without distraction and unblinkingly deals with adversity.

Dixon, a two-time IndyCar Series champion, scratched his way into contention at the Brickyard the past two years when victory in the Indianapolis 500 appeared unlikely. He overcame a couple of hiccups to finish second behind teammate Dario Franchitti in last year's race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

So far this season, Dixon has been the driving force behind Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The New Zealander opened with a fifth-place finish in St. Petersburg and last week recorded a runner-up finish in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Dixon's performance, coupled with the surprising start of third-year driver Charlie Kimball, has overshadowed the uncharacteristically slow start of Franchitti, a four-time series champion and three-time Indy 500 winner who sits 26th in points.

“Scott always finds a way to get the most out of the cars we give him,” said Fox Chapel native Chip Ganassi. “He has a chance to win the championship every year, and I know that's what he expects.”

Dixon, second in points behind leader Helio Castroneves, is off to a fast start in the Honda-powered No. 9 car, in part, because he's easily handled every crooked turn he's faced. Also, he's managed to race his way into contention after two average qualifying runs — including starting 20th in St. Petersburg.

“For me, a lot of it has to do with the team,” Dixon said. “Unfortunately, we haven't capitalized on some of the finishes we would like.

“I love being a part of the team. I enjoy every part of my job, but our goal is to get more 500 wins.”

Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, has had a splendid 11-year run with Ganassi. And he hopes to deliver CGR's 100th IndyCar Series victory during next week's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Prix.

Dixon made a strong charge over the final 10 laps in Birmingham last Sunday. He roared past Castroneves to secure second but ran out of time on the 17-turn, 2.38-mile road course and finished .6368 of a second behind defending points champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“I admire Chip's pure love for competition,” Dixon said. “He wants to win. If you had a bad race, a bad year, then Chip gets angry. But that's good to see because we all want to achieve great things.

“We work well together. It's been fantastic winning championships. We're right up there with some of the great teams. You look at Roger (Penske) and see Chip right next to him.”

Dixon might not possess Franchitti's charisma, but he has unmatched aspirations. It's why he's haunted by his recent failures at the Brickyard.

“You always analyze how you're performing,” he said. “Every weekend is different. There are different things you're trying to achieve. It's always about bettering yourself and the team. It's about winning, too.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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