New Zealander Scott Dixon’s run of podium finishes in the 2008 IndyCar Championship ended last weekend – ironically on a road racing circuit, the type of track on which he has traditionally excelled.
Ryan Hunter-Reay of Rahal Letterman Racing won his first IRL race, the 60 lap Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on the Watkins Glen track in New York state. Hunter-Reay won by 2.4009 seconds, from AJ Foyt Racing’s Darren Manning.
Tony Kanaan was third after recovering from a crash in the morning warm-up, with Buddy Rice and Marco Andretti completing the top five.
Heading into the Camping World Grand Prix, it seemed the championship leader and three time Watkins Glen winner Dixon and pole-winning Australian Ryan Briscoe would be the drivers to beat. But Dixon and Briscoe came home 11th and 12th after a lap 49 incident.
Hunter-Reay passed Manning on lap 52 and led the final laps. Manning, who pitted on lap 39, had inherited the lead on lap 42 when Briscoe and Dixon made their final stops.
Briscoe came out of the pits just behind Dixon, with Hunter-Reay running fourth.
Hunter-Reay’s chance came on lap 49 when Dixon spun while warming his tyres under caution. Briscoe collided with Dixon and both cars stalled in Turn 10 with Hunter-Reay narrowly missing them to move to second place. Three laps later he drove inside Manning in Turn 1 and passed for the lead.
Dixon retains the IndyCar Series points lead over Helio Castroneves, who finished 16th.
Hunter-Reay called his win “a dream come true – an American kid winning”. “It’s an American team – Bobby Rahal gave me the job and now we’re in victory circle. I can’t tell you how happy I am.”
Of the Dixon/Briscoe crash, he said: “Dixon was warming the tyres really hard.
“And I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to see if I can do it that hard.’ But I thought, ‘You know what, I might loop this thing doing it.’
“Low and behold, a lap later, there he goes. It was amazing. It was like the seas were parting. For all the bad luck that’s gone our way, for it to finally go our way a little bit, that’s huge. Great timing too.”
Dixon said he felt bad about spinning. “I was a complete idiot. I still can’t believe I did it. It’s pretty bad. “I was just trying to burn the front tyres up a bit because of the new tyres and the restarts. I was very loose.
“I was trying to heat them up to see if that would help it. I got a bit aggressive and went a little higher into the turn and I saw it and the steering wheel snapped on me.”
Briscoe was philosophical. “I know how Scott feels; there’s nothing you can do in that situation – I just wish I didn’t get caught up in it.
“It really is too bad because that took out two of the strongest cars in the race at that point. But that’s life and things like that happen sometimes.”