Scott Dixon looking to add to record win total at Mid-Ohio

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Eight races. Five wins.

Do a little bit of math and that equals a 0.625 winner percentage at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for one Scott Dixon since the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to the central Ohio road course in 2007 (Dixon also raced twice in CART in 2001 and 2002, posting a best finish of fifth the latter year).

All told, 30 Verizon IndyCar/CART races have been run at the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course in Lexington, Ohio since 1980 and it’s Dixon who has the most wins there, all since 2007 when open-wheel racing returned for the first time since 2003.

This weekend Dixon is looking not just for his first win since Texas in June, but also his first top-five finish.

In his last four starts, the three-time IndyCar champion has finishes of eight, sixth, seventh and 17th.

What better place to earn his third win of the year and Chip Ganassi Racing’s 100th IndyCar win than the track Dixon won at last year after starting dead last in a 22-car field?

“Mid-Ohio is definitely a big shift from what we’re typically used to atmosphere-wise, compared to a street circuit in a downtown situation,” Dixon said in a release. “Last year for us, I messed up big time in qualifying and had to start last, coming from the back of the grid and ended up winning the race.”

Dixon led 45 of the event’s 90 laps on his way to the win. In eight races, Dixon has led 201 laps, all of them coming in the races he won.

“(Scott) Dixon is obviously the master here at Mid-Ohio so I’m going to be picking his brain every step of the way,” said rookie Sage Karam, Dixon’s Ganassi teammate.

In the eight races since 2007, only the 2008 race won by Ryan Briscoe was not won by a Chip Ganassi driver. Dario Franchitti won in 2010 and Charlie Kimball earned his only IndyCar win there in 2013. So the team has a six-year win streak on the line going into the race.

“It’s tough to pass there but we had great strategy (last year) and a lot of help from Ryan Hunter-Reay, who spun out at the right time and caused the caution that we needed to switch our strategy and go on to win the race,” Dixon said.

“I think the team has 10 wins now there so it’s quite a milestone and obviously a place that I really enjoy.”

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds