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Dixon: Dario deal `cool`.

Despite having headed into the final race of the 2007 IndyCar season as mortal enemies in search of the championship title, and divided at the end of it by a few gulps of fuel, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti appear content to be on the same side next year.

The pair appeared side-by-side in the build-up to this year's championship showdown between Dixon and Helio Castroneves, just an hour or so after Franchitti's return to the IndyCar Series had been confirmed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the team he left open-wheel racing to join in NASCAR for 2008. Franchitti replaces current incumbent, and fellow Briton, Dan Wheldon after Sunday's Chicagoland encounter, and could make his race debut with the team in October's non-points event on Australia's Gold Coast.

Despite having formed a solid, and generally amicable, partnership with Wheldon over the past few years, Dixon claimed that Franchitti's arrival could only add to the Ganassi operation's momentum, and morale as the title battle intensifies.

"I think it's pretty cool," the Kiwi admitted, "It's definitely pretty positive to have a team-mate that's been very strong, very tough to beat - including last year, where we came up just short. I think it's going to be a huge influx for the team, and I can just imagine everybody will be really excited.

"It's come at a tough time for everyone within the team, especially coming down to the championship, but it bodes well and looks absolutely fantastic for next season. I hope we can continue with the success that the team's had. Definitely, with a team-mate like Dario, it's going to be all good things."

Having fled to NASCAR, albeit ahead of a season fraught with health and financial hurdles, Franchitti's name only publicly came into the frame as a potential replacement for Wheldon during last weekend's Detroit Indy Grand Prix at Belle Isle. The Scot attempted to gloss over the rumours when cornered by the media but, with Wheldon's position looking shaky following the news that Ganassi came close to snaring Tony Kanaan for 2009, and Franchitti's own plans uncertain, it soon became apparent that he could be destined to partner Dixon.

"I know some people have been talking about it for a little while, obviously with what Dario's options were going to be," the championship leader confirmed, "There's been a lot of things floating around and, definitely, the thing I was looking forward to was hearing about that. We've sort of seen each other over the weekend, and I knew there must have been some rumblings going on over there."

Despite being excited by the new arrival, however, Dixon found time to sympathise with Wheldon, who he admits must have felt in limbo once details of the possible Kanaan deal broke a couple of races ago. The Briton has signed to return to Panther Racing for 2009, and will replace the current pilot of the #4 machine, the luckless Vitor Meira, in Surfers Paradise.

"I think it's tough if you haven't been kept in the loop," Dixon said of the Briton's situation, "I'm always a certain believer the way it should be, the way you should do business, is you should be up front. If you're looking at other things or doing other things, you should maybe let the person you're working for, in that situation, know about it. That's just courtesy, I think. Whether that happened or whether it didn't, I have no idea. But I don't think that was part of it.

"I don't think there was any problem [between Wheldon and team boss Chip Ganassi]. I don't know the ins-and-outs of what they were discussing, because both of those guys definitely keep that stuff quiet. It's pretty much how you should do business. They always seemed to be getting on very well whenever I've been around them. I didn't see anything coming, that's for sure."

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October 22, 2010 6:58 PM

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