7 August 2011
Emphatic win for flawless Dixon
"I was running in a good position behind Sato, when suddenly JR who was a few positions behind, came in from the outside causing me to lose positions as I braked hard to avoid contact with him," Viso explained.
"I'm just very frustrated," said Castroneves, who had appeared frustrated for much of the weekend. " try to stay away from trouble but somehow trouble seems to find me. Somebody touched the #4 car and he lost control and hit me and we needed to come in and change our front wing. That really did us in for the race. ... To work so hard and finish 19th is really tough."
Up front, Hinchliffe continued to lead and doing an impressive job of staying comfortably in front of Dixon during the middle section of the race until lap 53, when he had to head to pit lane for his second fuel stop. So far, he was still a good two laps short of being able to make the end of the race without a final splash-and-dash, as proved by the way that the rest of the cars didn't come in until two laps later as they just passed the threshold. Scott Dixon was in next time around hoping that the few fast laps he had put in since Hinch surrendered the lead would allow him to "undercut" the Canadian in the pit stops and put him back in the lead without having
Dario Franchitti briefly inherited the lead from Dixon before coming in at the end of lap 57, leaving the race lead to the Penske duo of Will Power and Ryan Briscoe who had their sights on exactly that sort of "undercut" strategy to displace the Ganassi cars from the top spots. As long as there was no caution in the meantime, it could work a treat.
Naturally, Power's luck being what it is in 2011, there was promptly a full course caution. Graham Rahal has been trying to turn into turn 2 only to find Danica Patrick squeezing down the inside into the apex, and after multiple hits the #38 car of Rahal finally spun and was left stranded half-on, half-off the outside of the corner which meant a full course caution was unavoidable. Power and Briscoe were left out on track, while Franchitti has just managed to get into pit lane in time.
In fact it worked out so well for Franchitti that when he exited the pits, he passed the end of the pit lane just ahead of Scott Dixon who came flying past. As the course was under caution, overtaking was not allowed and Dixon was ordered to hand the position back to his team mate.
That was a minor annoyance for Dixon compared to the disaster that the Penske team now faced: now very low on fuel, Power and Briscoe had no option but to come in as soon as the pit lane was opened, but that meant they came back out on track well behind all those cars who had pitted in the preceding laps: they were in 17th and 18th respectively, Power staring at the rear of Ana Beatriz' #24 car.
"We were making great fuel mileage and we were going to go a lap or two longer than the leaders on the second stop, which would have put us in great position to challenge for the race lead in the last stint," Power explained later. "Basically, today we suffered for doing a great job of driving a smart race."
"We were just really unlucky today," agreed Briscoe. "But we just got caught out by the yellow flag. In the end, that's what really hurt us. It's just really frustrating. We had a great car today - a winning car - but we just caught a tough break."
At the restart, there was a brief battle for the lead before Dixon broke through and took the first turn ahead of Franchitti: whether any team orders (or simple team mate largesse) had been at work or not, Dixon was clearly in by far the faster car and the overtake was inevitable sooner or later. Once released he was well down the road, leading by up to 8s during the final laps which ran without further caution to the end of the race.
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