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Dixon's win leads banner day for Ganassi at Pocono

The SportsXchange

LONG POND, Pa. -- Chip Ganassi felt like a million dollars at Pocono Raceway, which was the number of the day.

His IndyCar Series team has struggled mightily this season, but it recovered at this track to finish first, second and third in the Pocono 400, the first series race here since 1989.

Scott Dixon posted his 30th career IndyCar victory, holding off teammate Charlie Kimball by 0.45 of a second, and Dario Franchitti was third. Dixon won for the first time this season, pulling within one victory of the career lead among active drivers (Franchitti and Sebastien Bourdais).

Kimball matched his career-best finish and Franchitti made on the podium for the first time this year.

"It's a long time coming," said Dixon, who last won a race almost a year ago at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. "This is really a big boost for the team and for Honda."

The win was the 200th for Honda, which has been waiting for a breakthrough after being dominated by Chevrolet in most of the races this season. Honda's last victory had come in Detroit last month.

Dixon became the eighth winner in 11 races in the series this season.

Ganassi's cars have never finished 1-2-3 in any race.

But it wasn't always easy. Kimball talked about a three-wide pass through the tight Turn 1 that included Franchitti.

"I think we all lifted (off the throttle)," Kimball said.

Franchitti said, "I might have been on the brakes, too, and I think I came (out of the corner) first."

Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan lost his chance to continue pursuit of a $1 million bonus. The money was part of the Triple Crown program sponsored by Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka. A driver who could win three key oval-track races, the last one being the season-ending race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Kanaan, who was in contention throughout the race, was passing Dixon for the lead on Lap 107 when he struck the back of Dixon's car. It was only a slight touch, but it was enough to damage Kanaan's right front wing assembly.

Kanaan initially said he didn't touch Dixon's car, but the camera mounted on his car showed otherwise. The wing moved slightly as he approached corners, a dangerous proposition for a style of car so dependent on creating aerodynamic downforce. KV Racing Technology officials had no choice but to summon Kanaan to pit road for a wing change.

Kanaan apologized to the team on the radio before obeying the request to stop. That cost him a lap to the leaders as he pitted earlier than he needed to (and did so under green) and wound up 13th.

Takuma Sato had a disappointing afternoon, although there wasn't as much money at stake. He couldn't get his A.J. Foyt Racing car slowed in time entering the pits and ran over the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay's car.

The contact pushed Hunter-Reay into the outside pit wall, breaking his car's front wing. After running in the top three, the reigning series champion was out of contention to win.

"I thought a plane hit me," Hunter-Reay said. "I couldn't imagine Sato coming from so far back (to hit me). I was minding my own business."

Hunter-Reay, who reinjured his right thumb, said Sato "unplugged his brain entirely."

Sato apologized.

"Extremely sorry," he said. "It's all my fault."

James Hinchcliffe started on the front row, only to crash on the opening lap. He wasn't sure what happened.

"The car just snapped loose on me," he said. "We went a bit aggressive on setup because we had an under-steering car all week, and we didn't want that in the race.

"Maybe we overstepped it a bit, I'm not quite sure."

Marco Andretti led 88 of the 160 laps but couldn't challenge the leaders because of poor fuel mileage. He finished 10th and was devastated by having the most dominant car, which ran out of fuel on the last lap.

"I was saving my guts out," he said.

The crowd was good for the return of the series to this part of the country. Estimates settled at 30,000.

"To see the line of traffic this morning was great to see, especially after 24 years (away)," Kimball said.
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