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Dixon poised for IRL title

SONOMA, Calif. — Marco Andretti has the pedigree. Danica Patrick has the crossover appeal.

Scott Dixon has the consistency.

Such a trait doesn’t exactly make for attention-grabbing headlines. If it did, Dixon would be the most famous open wheel racecar driver in the country.

Dixon, the 2003 IndyCar Series champion, has finished outside of the top 10 in just three of 28 races since the start of the 2006 season. And following three straight wins in July, the 27-year-old New Zealander has put himself in position to capture his second season title.

Going into today’s Motorola Indy 300 at Infineon Raceway, the 15th of 17 events this year, Dixon trails series leader Dario Franchitti by just eight points. And the championship may be determined by who is the more, ahem, consistent over the last three races of the season.

“Consistency’s always good, but at the start of the year when you have four or five second place finishes, it gets pretty frustrating. You don’t want to keep doing that,” Dixon said. “So it was nice to get that string of three to put us back on the championship map.”

During his championship season, the Target Chip Ganassi racer won three of the first seven races and finished second in five of the last eight. This year, Dixon placed fourth or better in seven of the first nine races and been the runner-up four other times, including the Indianapolis 500.

Then he captured the checkered flag at Watkins Glen (N.Y.), Nashville and Mid-Ohio, a win streak which vaulted him near the top of the standings.

He was searching for a series record fourth straight win at Michigan earlier this month, but a multiple- car crash ended those hopes as well as what had been an IndyCar record of 28 straight races completed.

Still, he rebounded to place second at Kentucky two weeks ago, and what was a 65-point deficit to Franchitti at the end of June has been shrunk to a single digit. Tony Kanaan, who has won the last two events, is 52 points back.

“All of the teams in the (hunt for the) championship are feeling pretty good. They’ve all been pretty fast, and we’ve sort of scattered the wins between us,” Dixon said. “It’s not just us that are smiling, but we’ve gotten a lot closer to Dario in the points.”

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