In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before Scott Dixon once again showed why he's a perennial contender in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
The first four events saw Dixon collect two top fives and three top 10s. However, much of the early press belonged to Team Penske for opening the season with three straight wins, and then to Ryan Hunter-Reay for putting the Stars and Stripes back in Victory Lane at Long Beach.
But Dixon certainly has all eyes on him now. The two-time IndyCar champion delivered another whipping at Kansas Speedway on May 1, leading 167 laps en route to his 23rd career win in American open-wheel racing. After taking the lead from pole sitter Ryan Briscoe, the New Zealander continually got stronger as each green-flag stint wore on during the afternoon and wound up beating teammate Dario Franchitti to the checkered flag by three seconds.
For Dixon, it was a great way to begin the month of May. But now, in his words, it's "head down, bum up" for himself and the rest of the series as they come back home again in Indiana for the 94th Indianapolis 500 on May 30. And needless to say, the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a whole other animal from the cookie-cutter 1.5-mile oval he's dominated for two years now.
"Success [at Kansas] for us has been fantastic," said Dixon. "I hope we can carry this momentum for another 30 days. It's totally different from the month of May. The Speedway is obviously a lot different. We got our work cut out for us. I could see the competition was pretty tight back there, a lot of passing and stuff going on. So I just hope we can carry the momentum over."
With Target Chip Ganassi Racing behind him, he's expected to do just that when practice for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing begins this Saturday at the Speedway. After winning the 2008 edition, Dixon led 73 laps in last year's Indy 500 before Helio Castroneves passed him for the lead at Lap 142 and went on to claim his third Indy title. Dixon would be robbed of any chance to catch the Brazilian after being victimized by a slow final pit stop; he wound up sixth.
But pit road mistakes notwithstanding, it appears that everything is ready for him to grab another Brickyard victory -- or at least contend for the prize. It's been two years since a driver outside of the TCGR and Penske teams has won on an oval, and according to Dixon, it's all because of those tried-and-true "small things."
"I know our big deal this year is with body fits, making the car as slick as possible in the air, which is a huge push for Indy," Dixon explained. "That's when we need it most. It's not five big things. That's what our team keeps going on about. It's the same mentality that Penske has.
"It's 20 small things that make up those five big things. They're forever working on the car and rubbing on the car to make sure there's not a little piece of tape or anything like that. It's definitely attention to detail that I believe that's gotten these teams to where they're at."
There will be a good number of dark horses at Indy for sure, from the Andretti Autosport foursome to others like Dan Wheldon (Panther Racing), Paul Tracy (KV Racing Technology), and Townsend Bell (Chip Ganassi Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports). But all of them will likely have to overcome Dixon, who, as his last performance shows, seems to have a thing for running away and hiding as soon as he gets to P1. He's a race-breaker, a driver that can soundly and thoroughly dominate a race from start to finish.
Suffice to say, he'll be a threat later this month.
Five women in the 500?
After competing in this year's season opener at Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ana Beatriz will try to make her first Indy 500 in a fourth entry for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing. She joins Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Simona de Silvestro, and Milka Duno in a group of five female drivers that will attempt to get on the grid during qualifying weekend on May 22-23.
Beatriz, a veteran of the Firestone Indy Lights development series, may be an Indy rookie but she is not a stranger to the Speedway. She competed in the FIL's Firestone Freedom 100 twice at IMS, finishing fifth in 2008 and crashing out in 2009.
"It will be a dream come true to have my debut in the Indy 500 in the Centennial Era and I hope to have a smooth and very competitive month of May," said Beatriz in a team press release. "Hopefully, my experience in [Firestone] Indy Lights can help me at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."
Beatriz also joins a D&R roster with plenty of talent as she and South African driver Tomas Scheckter join the team's full-time pilots, Justin Wilson and Mike Conway.