Thursday, July 3, 2003 Updated: July 6, 9:14 AM ET
By Robin Miller Special to ESPN.com
KANSAS CITY -- It wasn't supposed to be like this. A road racer from CART coming into the Indy Racing League and kicking butt. If anybody in Chip Ganassi's tandem was expected to show his heels to the field it was sophomore Tomas Scheckter.
But right now Scott Dixon has his boot up everybody's backside.
As the Indy cars roll into K.C. this weekend, Dixon is threatening to turn the all-oval series into his personal showcase. Last Saturday's flag-to-flag victory was his second straight and gave him three for the season. He's led the last 290 laps of competition and a series high 440 for the year.
And while this talented 22-year-old New Zealander may have snuck up on his IRL competition, it didn't surprise his team.
"I think that everybody who had their nose into racing knew about Scott Dixon," said Chip Ganassi, who added Dixon to his CART team in 2002 after three races when PacWest Racing closed its doors.
"I think he got robbed a few times of some wins last year and we knew there were some around the corner here. This guy has got a lot of wins in front of him, I can tell you that."
Michael Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi, Arie Luyendyk, Bruno Junqueira and Eddie Cheever Jr. have all driven for the Target/Ganassi stable but managing director Mike Hull rates Dixon the best.
"On ovals, I think Scott is the best we've ever had," said Hull following Dixon's dominating drive (he started on the pole and led all 204 laps) last Saturday night. "He is so precise and so smooth. We'll tell him on the radio to give us a lap just like the last one and he'll do 15 in a row like that one.
"The guy has just been incredible."
Dixon has a series-high three wins this season.
Whether it's been a bullring like Richmond, a flat track like Homestead or a banked oval like Pikes Peak, the former Indy Lights champion has handled them like a guy who's been through the circuit instead of a first-timer.
"To me the real blessing is a driver who can pick up circuits quickly," added Ganassi. "It makes it so much easier on the rest of the team."
The soft-spoken Dixon feels like that's one of his weapons.
"I generally think that's where my strong point is, adapting to circuits fast," said the youngest man to ever win a CART race (he was 20 years, nine months when he won Nazareth, Pa., as a rookie in 2001).
"The other big thing is that this team has supplied me with great cars. We might have been off a little at some places but the majority of the time we have a fast car. That makes Tomas and my job much easier."
Despite crashing out at Japan while going for the lead and making a mistake at Indy while scrubbing his tires under the caution, Dixon is only 27 points behind leader Tony Kanaan halfway through the 16-race schedule.
"I think from my side of the team we have a little bit of work to do on the one-and-a-half mile tracks and we've got a few of them coming up so it should be interesting," he continued.
"A lot of people didn't think the G-Force chassis was going to be the best but the engineering department has done an excellent job."
It's rumored Dixon will have at least one Formula One test this fall, probably with Toyota for sure, but Ganassi says he's got a contract with the latest of his young guns.
"It's nice to come here this year with a full effort and all guns in place," said Ganassi, who ran three cars in CART and one in the IRL in 2002. "But even with all the guns you still need a shooter behind the wheel.
"That's what we got this guy (pointing to Dixon) here for."
Whatever happens Sunday afternoon there will be a first-time winner here because defending champ Airton Dare is recovering from multiple fractures received at Texas and inaugural winner Eddie Cheever is no longer driving.
Two-time IRL Sam Hornish Jr. is coming off back-to-back top fives in his underpowered Chevrolet but may not to able to make up for his disadvantage with handling at K.C. Helio Castroneves, Kenny Brack and Scheckter are still searching for their first wins of 2003.
Robin Miller covers open wheel racing for ESPN and ESPN.com.