A new era in IRL IndyCar history dawned with Kiwi Scott Dixon claiming the victory laurels on his series debut in Sunday's Toyota Indy 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Dixon gave Toyota their maiden IRL victory on their debut in the series as he led Gil de Ferran across the line by a mere half a second following 200 laps of hard racing around the 1.5-mile Florida oval. The former CART driver took the lead on lap 147 and led the final 53 laps, the final 20 of which were carried out with de Ferran snapping at his heels.
Starting his first full season with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team, Dixon started the 300-mile affair from the outside of row six in his #9 G Force-Toyota and bided his time in the early going in a race where passing moves had to be timed implicitly on every occasion.
As Andretti-Green Racing teammates Michael Andretti and polesitter Tony Kanaan disputed the lead during the opening 50 laps, Dixon moved into seventh place about half a lap behind the leaders as the first round of (green flag) pitstops approached.
At the head of the field it was clear that AGR and Marlboro Team Penske had the best chassis set-up at this time with Andretti, Kanaan, de Ferran and Helio Castroneves occupying the top four places throughout the opening 50 laps. Their Honda (AGR) and Toyota (MTP) power plants also seemed to offer better fuel consumption for as the downtrodden Chevrolet powered runners (led by Sam Hornish Jr) started making their first stops at the 50 lap mark, the leading quartet could wait until laps 56-57 before pulling onto pit road.
After the field had shuffled itself out de Ferran led Castroneves, a quick pitting Tomas Scheckter in the leading Target sponsored Ganassi owned G Force, Andretti, Kanaan, Dixon and Scott Sharp. Hornish Jr was the leading Chevy powered driver and was clinging grimly to a place on the lead lap in eighth position.
Following a lap three caution caused when rookie Scott Mayer backed into the turn two wall after contact with Shigeaki Hattori the race went green from laps 9-67 when debris was spotted and the field was slowed once again. Mindful of his fuel consumption issues Hornish chose to pit again but with only nine cars remaining on the lead lap, the damage was minimal.
The wily de Ferran appeared to have the race in his pocket at this point and used a couple of lapped cars to pull away from his pursuing teammate on the lap 77 restart. As de Ferran established a two-second cushion in the lead, Sharp was the man on the move, passing Dixon and Kanaan for fifth position before Jaques Lazier's turn four crash brought out the third caution period on lap 89 and sent everyone scurrying down pit road once again.
It was during this round of stops that Kanaan saw his chances evaporate, stalling his car and losing a great deal of track position despite only dropping to ninth. The Penske crew were as usual immaculate and their cars left pit road 1-2 although in reverse order as Castroneves' crew were just a little more immaculate than de Ferran's.