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Published: Monday, 7/9/2007

Hornish's father battles Kanaan

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Rain, cold, hot. When Scott Dixon comes to Watkins Glen International to race, the weather doesn't seem to faze him at all.

However, the hot temperatures apparently had an effect on tempers as the father of Sam Hornish Jr. tussled with driver Tony Kanaan after an end-of-the-race incident.

As for Dixon, he regained the lead after a fast pit stop on lap 45 and held off Hornish, series leader Dario Franchitti, Kanaan, and Marco Andretti over the final 14 laps yesterday to win the Watkins Glen Grand Prix.

It was Dixon's third straight victory at the 3.4-mile, 11-turn natural road course in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and seventh of his IndyCar Series career.

"That was fantastic, great. I look forward to coming to the track every year. It's just been a fantastic track for myself," said Dixon, who pulled away in the closing laps and won by 6.2 seconds to join former Formula One great Graham Hill as the only open-wheel drivers to win three straight races here. "Today, things just seemed to play our way. The last 10 laps I was waiting for something to break."

It was the best career road-course finish for Hornish, but there was no glee when he returned to the pits. He had bumped with Kanaan early in the race, and the fiery Brazilian swerved at Hornish's Penske Racing Honda after Dixon took the checkered flag to end the 60-lap, 202-mile race.

An altercation broke out when the drivers exited their cars. Hornish's father pushed Kanaan, then was knocked to the ground by members of Kanaan's Andretti Green Racing crew.

"It was unfortunate how it all played out, even after he got out of the car and I went to talk to him," Hornish said. "His point of view and mine is a lot different about what happened. I don't really see where it's coming from. He didn't give me any room, and that's what happens sometimes."

"He hit me," said Kanaan, whose green-and-white No. 11 had black tire marks along the driver's side. "I got out of the car to talk to him. He needs his dad to defend him, which I think is totally wrong. What happened on the track, we need to sort it out between me and him. I was not going to fight. That's why dads should be in the grandstands."

John Griffin, vice president of public relations for the Indy Racing League, said "sanctions will be handed down after we see the video."

Dixon, who has four runner-up finishes this season for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, took advantage of a mistake by polesitter Helio Castroneves, who led the first 19 laps and seemed to be the man to beat before crashing.

"You could see that he was struggling," said Dixon, who started second and began gaining ground on Castroneves after the teams made their first pit stops. "We were definitely quicker. I think we could have had a shot at him. If he hadn't messed up there, I think we would have got him sooner or later."

The Indy Racing League began including road and street circuits on the schedule starting in 2005, and Dixon had won the first two races at Watkins Glen International. The first race was staged in late September and last year was moved to early June, and both times the temperature was in the 50s.

A year ago, with light rain falling and the IRL's "60 laps or two-hours" rule looming, Dixon stayed on the track for the final nine laps on dry tires while the frontrunners pitted for rain tires. He held on during a white-flag restart after the seventh caution of the race and beat Vitor Meira by 2.3 seconds for the win.

Yesterday, rain was in the area but stayed away until a few drops started falling on the final two laps as the outside temperature soared to near 90.

Dixon cut into some of Franchitti's big lead in the standings. Dixon led the most laps and picked up 18 points on the Scotsman and now trails by 47 points with seven races remaining.

"We've got to start laying on the pressure," Dixon said.

Andretti gained the lead after Meira ran out of fuel and brought out the third and final caution of the race as the leaders pitted. On a restart on lap 37, Andretti began pulling away from the second-place car of Buddy Rice with Dixon and Franchitti close behind.

Andretti, who pitted on lap 22, was told to conserve fuel as his team played a fuel strategy game, trying to complete the race on two stops. He made his final stop on lap 43, and Franchitti came in on the next lap.

Dixon, Hornish, and Darren Manning pitted on lap 45, and Dixon's crew had him out in 7.3 seconds, fast enough to regain the lead, and he took off from there.



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