Racing: Dixon danger-man as end nearsSave
By Eric Thompson
IndyCar driver Scott Dixon has only two rounds left in this year's championship to pounce on Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal and claim his fourth IRL title.
The Kiwi is third, 25 points behind Rahal and 34 off the lead.
It's been an up and down year for Dixon where several issues have cost him podium places, if not wins. But true to form he's hung tough and is again at the sharp end of the title race, which makes him one of the most dangerous drivers in the mix towards the end of a season.
"It's been a bit of a weird season this year for us," said Dixon.
"Everyone thinks we had a strong start [to the season] but the only good thing was Long Beach.
"St Pete was mechanical. New Orleans we struggled on strategy, got taken out at Indy GP and then the virtual yellow car [mid-Ohio] messed up the top half of the field who were in the pits."
Usually at this time in the season with just Pocono (this weekend) and Sonoma to go, two or three drivers are on a roll and have pulled away from the rest of the field. Not this year. Likely championship contenders - Dixon aside, who has not finished outside the top three in nine years - have struggled this year.
Defending champion Will Power has lacked consistency, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan have been average. Montoya started well but has stumbled and even Mr Consistency, Dixon, has hit a few speed bumps.
"It's been a strange year and there's no one dominant driver," Dixon said.
"Rahal has been lucky on some of the strategy calls and taken advantage when the rest of us have missed out. They've done a good job of turning crappy weekends into something pretty strong. It makes for an interesting finish to the season.
"I was really miffed at Iowa when the mechanical problem robbed us of a certain podium finish and with Montoya already out it would have meant we would probably be leading the championship now."
It's frustrating for the Kiwi to know opportunities have slipped through the team's fingers but with two races to go there's still a fair chance he can get his nose in front.
"Pocono and Sonoma are good tracks for both us [Chip Ganassi Racing] and Penske so we'll just have to see how it rolls. It's wide open at the moment," he said.
Several other Kiwis are chasing points in various motorsport categories at home and abroad.
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are in Germany for the all-tarmac round nine of the World Rally Championship. Paddon has been the standout performer (other than Finland) over the past four rallies, setting faster stage times than his Hyundai Motorsport teammates Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville.
"Our first tarmac event of the year and only my sixth tarmac event ever means we have a big challenge ahead," said Paddon. "While we are well prepared after a good test last week and some driving training in the UK with Kiwi legend Rob Wilson, tarmac is not our best surface."
Paddon is in good hands with Wilson because he's trained the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, David Coulthard and Valentino Rossi.
GP2 racer Mitch Evans is suiting up again at round seven of his series at the Belgium F1 Grand Prix this weekend. The young Kiwi has had a season that would put a pendulum to shame. He is now ninth on the points table with five rounds to go, and is keen for some desperately needed consistency.
Closer to home the V8 Supercars have arrived at the Sydney Motorsport Park for the last of the sprint rounds before the three-round endurance series within a series starts next month at Sandown. Championship leader Mark Winterbottom will be looking to extend his 256-point lead over Craig Lowndes.
Leading Kiwi driver Fabian Coulthard had a very average race weekend at Ipswich and has slipped to sixth. Shane van Gisbergen is ninth, Scott McLaughlin 14th and Andre Heimgartner 22nd.
At home, rally fans will head to the Coromandel for the penultimate round of the NZ Rally Championship.
Series leaders Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn lead Phil Campbell (Venita Fabbro co-driver) by 42 points and are the form duo, winning the past two rounds in Canterbury and Gisborne.
1: Juan Pablo Montoya - 465pts
2: Graham Rahal - 456
3: Scott Dixon - 431
4: Helio Castroneves - 407
5: Will Power - 406