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Dixon gets 31st IndyCar victory

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- The IZOD IndyCar Series' much-hyped introduction of standing race starts never materialized, but the finish of the Honda Indy Toronto made up for that disappointment.

Scott Dixon and Target Chip Ganassi Racing continued their resurgence as Dixon won for the first time in Toronto, pulling away to lead Sebastien Bourdais of Dragon Racing across the line by 1.7007 seconds following a green-white-checkered finish.

Dixon backed up his victory last Sunday at Pocono Raceway with the 31st victory of his IndyCar career. Remarkably, Dixon shared the podium with Bourdais and Dario Franchitti on a day when he tied both on 31 victories.

Four-time IndyCar Series champion Franchitti crossed the line in third place, but as he was celebrating on the podium, temporary Race Director Brian Barnhart announced that Franchitti would be penalized by 25 seconds for blocking Team Penske's Will Power on the last lap, dropping him to 13th.

Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti inherited third place.

Dixon is the first IndyCar driver to score back-to-back race wins in 2013. More importantly, he trimmed 22 points off of championship leader Helio Castroneves' advantage after the Brazilian finished sixth on Saturday.

Castroneves extended his championship lead to 39 points over defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had a torrid day in Toronto that included two stalls during pit stops and a late-race incident with his Andretti Autosport teammate EJ Viso that dropped him to 18th place.

Dixon is third in the standings, only four points behind Hunter-Reay and 43 points behind Castroneves.

"That was an afternoon of waiting patiently trying to get the most we could get out of it," Dixon said. "The car was fantastic. It was exactly what we needed. Now we need to keep this momentum going."

After months of hype, the introduction of standing starts was delayed seven weeks from IndyCar's Detroit event to Toronto, then aborted altogether when Josef Newgarden's Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry stalled on the grid.

A hearty chorus of boos erupted from the crowd when the switch to a rolling start was announced.

Once the race got underway after four laps behind the Pace Car, Franchitti led from pole position and pulled out a 1.5-second gap.

However, by Lap 15 Bourdais started to eat into the Scotsman's slim lead, and Franchitti suddenly dropped to fourth place in the space of three corners on Lap 21 as he was slowed by worn rear tires.

Following the first round of scheduled pit stops, Power emerged in the lead.

Power, who was trying to end a 22-race winless streak, led the most laps Saturday but fell to a 15th place finish when he crashed trying to pass Franchitti on the penultimate lap.

Barnhart, who was filling in for Race Director Beaux Barfield after a personal issue prevented Barfield from traveling to Canada, assessed the controversial penalty to Franchitti about 20 minutes after the finish of the race.

Franchitti was furious after learning of the penalty.

"It's a load of crap, the call," he said. "Will was out of control, he bounced off the wall, then bounced off me and went straight on. He did the same to Scott earlier in the race and I didn't defend the corner any differently that anyone else did all day.

"It's just very frustrating."

Another potential controversy arose from a Lap 70 restart, when Bourdais took the lead from Dixon after the New Zealander appeared to hesitate on a Lap 70 restart.

The restart was reviewed by Barnhart, who chose not to impose a penalty on Bourdais.

"(Bourdais) definitely jumped," Dixon said. "I was meant to be the leader and he drove by before I went.

"But that's OK. We had the speed and a couple overtakes (brief bursts of extra turbocharger boost for extra power) left and we got past him on the straight a few laps later."

Dixon survived one final restart with two laps to go and pulled away to notch victory No. 31 and move into a tie for seventh in the all-time rankings.

Thirty of his 31 wins since 2001 were achieved with the Ganassi organization.

"I'm excited about that," the normally reserved Dixon said. "It's kind of crazy because I respect those guys on the list so much. I watched them when I was younger and to be on list with them is pretty humbling.

"I hope to win many more races with Team Target. It's been a career team for me and a place I'm proud to call home."
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