Growing up in New Zealand it was always a dream of mine to race at some of the worlds most interesting tracks. I had heard about Watkins Glen, firstly with Formula One racing there, and then later Indycar/Champcar made stops there. Unfortunately for me, that dream never came true, but for another young Kiwi driver, it did.
Scott Dixon and I have several things in common, we’re both Kiwi’s, we both come from "Racing" families, both of our fathers raced in Australiasia for many years, and we both were amongst the youngest race car drivers ever in New Zealand. In the years I was growing up in NZ you had to have a road license to be able to get a racing license, and to get a road license you had to be 15 years old (no probation period, or learners license required). On my 15th birthday I, like the rest of my family on the day they turned 15, went to the local Ministry of Transport Office (DMV here in California), took the tests and walked out with a full drivers license. Of course then I was ready to launch my racing career, and at 15 years an a couple of months I was on the grid, sharing a car with my brother Paul (who went on to become the 1993 & 1994 World Touring Car Champion) in a local long distance endurance race. Move forward several years, and the road license age in NZ was raised, and amazingly enough the road license requirement was dropped, and the age dropped to 13 for a racing license. Now anyone could get a racing license at 13 (providing they met the other requirements and were observed to be safe on the track), and a kid named Scott Dixon was one of the very first to take advantage of this.
Scott got his racing license at 13, and the rest as they say is history, moving through the ranks all the way to Champcar, an amazing feat for a racer from New Zealand, without any real corporate backing. Again fast forward, through the Indycar/Champcar split and you have Scott, from a pure road racing background ending up racing for Chip Ganassi in the oval only series, and winning the championship. Three years ago the Indy Racing League announced that they would go road racing, opening their series up to include ovals, street courses and some classic road courses. Watkins Glen was added to the schedule, and this years race was the third visit to this historic track.
Both of the previous two events have been won by Scott Dixon, and going in to this years event he was once again one of the red hot favorites, along wiht runaway series leader Dario Franchitti. Scott was in form in qualifying, and looked to have the pole, until a bonzai lap from Helio Castroneves took it away form him, leaving Scott to strat in 2nd place.
The start of the race was clean, with Castroneves taking the lead from DIxon through the first round of pitstops, and looked like he had things well under control. On lap 19 though his race would end with a bang, as he clipped the inside curb at the final turn, slid wide, then lost control, slamming into the tires, and coming back across the track in front of Dixon, who somehow managed to miss him. WIth several cars on alternative strategies, Vitor Miera led for a number of laps before he ground to a halt, out of fuel, after an apparent radio malfunction meant he did not pit when he was supposed to.
Dan Wheldon made a late race charge at Dixon, but for the second time in two years at Watkins Glen, Wheldon had trouble in the pits with a rear jack malfunctioning, leaving oval specialist Sam Hornish Jr to take 2nd at the flag, his best ever road course finish, followed by series leader Dario Franchitti, some 3 seconds back.
The race was a little overshadowed at the end by a slow down lap clash between Sam Hornish Jr and Tony Kannan. Apparently they had come together earlier in the race, and Kannan drove into Hornish Jr on the slow down lap, raising temperatures in the pits after the race, ending with a brawl involving a number of people, as well as Sam Hornish Sr, Sam Hornish Jr’s father.
Although abnned in Formula One, team orders are alive and well in Champcar Racing. Marco Andretti was running well towards the end of the race, but after a string of retirements and crashes throughout the year, he is way out of contention for the championship, and was asked to let the charging Franchitti through, and then a little later to slow and let Tony Kannan pass to give him more points. Marco ended up in 5th, 1 place behind championship contender Kannan.
Overall a pretty dominant day by the lad from New Zealand, driving to his third win in three visits to Watkins Glen.