With tornados contuining to be reported in the area, reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon produced a whirlwind performance to claim his first victory of 2009 in the Road Runner Turbo 300 at Kansas Speedway.

The Target Chip Ganassi driver made the most of his decent qualifying position to steer clear of incidents at the 1.5-mile oval and take the chequered flag 0.7104secs ahead of Helio Castroneves, who came from the very back to claim the runner-up spot.

Dixon's win was the third in a row at the track for a Ganassi driver, following on from back-to-back successes for former team-mate Dan Wheldon, and helps give the Kiwi a vital leg-up in the points after two tough street course outings in St Petersburg and Long Beach.

He entered the race only 17th in the standings, but the return to a short oval clearly suited him well. After starting fourth, Dixon passed polesitter Graham Rahal on lap eight and went on to lead 134 of the 200 scheduled laps before claiming his 17th career IndyCar victory.

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The New Zealander did require a little luck, however, and caught the upside of a lap 153 caution caused by Ganassi team-mate Dario Franchitti making contact with the T3 SAFER Barrier, but the win - his first since Kentucky 2008 - moved him to fourth in the standings as he prepares to defend his Indianapolis 500 crown.

"I think we were expecting the race to be a lot more difficult as far as the wind conditions in turns three and four were concered - and maybe expected more cautions," Dixon remarked, "Our team was definitely talking about a lot of cautions and making sure we saved fuel.

"All-in-all, it was a pretty smooth race. We had a great car, jumped straight to second then, about ten laps later, got Graham when he slid up the track a bit in three and four. We got out front and started saving fuel.

"The Target car was really good all day, although we had a bit of a fumble in the pits, which dropped us back to third at one point and made it quite difficult to get past [Ryan] Briscoe. But I think we were trimmed to win, as they say. The car was maybe not as good as it should have been in traffic but, luckily enough, we were saving enough fuel and caught the caution that catapulted us to the front."

Castroneves, meanwhile, nearly duplicated his back-to-front victory from last September at Chicagoland. In that race, the Brazilian won after starting 28th and, this time, he worked his way up from 21st to second. The Brazilian, however, had to survive contact with Vitor Meira early on that could easily have damaged his Penske entry.

"That was a lot of fun - this wind was a little bit challenging, but it was the same for everyone," Castroneves reflected,"Team Penske did a hell of a job - Ryan and I were working really well together and you can see both cars up at the top. It's good points."

Another series veteran, Tony Kanaan, finished third and is the only driver to record top five finishes in each of the first three races this season. As a result, and with friend and 'bet buddy' Franchitti failing to reach the chequer, the Brazilian moved into the points lead, one point ahead of Briscoe, who finished fourth.

"Consistency is definitely the key, but we need to work a lot harder to get this car to win races," Kanaan noted, "In the meantime, we'll keep finishing where we need to be. It's good momentum going to Indy.

"We added a lot of downforce for the race, and that actually cost me toward the end. I told my engineer that we need to be there at the end, so don't give me a car that's going to scare the hell out of me during the whole race. Obviously I regretted it a little in the end, but it was a good result for the team."

Kanaan led an Andretti Green Racing contingent that placed all four drivers in the top ten for the first time since Milwaukee 2006. Danica Patrick finished fifth, with Marco Andretti sixth and Hideki Mutoh eighth.

Briscoe, meanwhile, was left to rue what might have been had the timing of Franchitti's caution been better. The race leader since lap 99, the Australian had just dropped onto the pit entry lane but hadn't crossed the timing line before the yellow flags flew. As a result, he had to motor through pit-lane without stopping and then return the next lap around. He lost three positions in the confusion, although a quick stop saw two of those regained by the time racing resumed.

"It's a solid result, but it's really disappointing," Briscoe sighed, "We had the car to win, and we had the track position until we got caught out with that yellow, so it's really unfortunate. But I'm happy to be disappointed for that reason, that's for sure."

Rahal finished seventh, ahead of Mutoh and Vision's Ed Carpenter, who bounced back to form after two dispiriting weeks on the streets, while defending race champion Dan Wheldon was unable to challenge for Panther Racing and finished tenth.

"We had a pretty good start," polesitter Rahal reviewed, "and, on the first lap, we pulled away. It was just 'Dixie' and I moving our way forward, trying to pull out a gap.

"I was struggling a bit in turns three and four though, and that's where I got passed the three times I was passed. Late in the race, I discovered the high line, and that's how I got around everybody, because my car was pretty good up top. I need to definitely think about that earlier next time.

"Having to do the splash-and-go there at the end for what was to be our last stop really cost us four spots so, realistically, we were looking pretty good."

The Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver was also involved in the incident that put erstwhile points leader Franchitti on the sidelines, but insists that he could do little about it.

"I have no clue what happened," Rahal maintained, "I'll go talk to him but, all of a sudden, I saw out of my right rear mirror the thing just went straight. I signalled that I was coming into pit-lane by putting two wheels over the white line, and I did it right off turn two, then I came back out to the white line and ducked in. I hit the brakes once I ducked, and it was pretty late - later than I have ever hit the brakes going into a pit lane. All of a sudden, I see this flash going by and straight into the fence - but, with the speed he was carrying, he wasn't going to make it whether I was there or not."