Dixon unhappy with early ruling in IndyCar race

Scott Dixon seemed more perturbed with the start of Sunday’s

Indy Grand Prix of Alabama than he was with the finish, when he

fell just short of a win.

IndyCar officials ruled that Dixon improved his position by two

spots before reaching the start/finish line, including passing

eventual winner Helio Castroneves. Dixon was sent back to his

original fifth-place position but figures he actually crossed the

line in ninth or 10th.

“The call to start the race was total B.S. We had a clean

pass,” said Dixon, who wound up second. “If they want us to just

start single-file and stay that way, then that’s what they should

have us do.”

Dixon said pole-sitter Will Power started too slow, causing the

issue.

“I think the cause for it was Will,” he said. “I don’t know

why he’s trying to start in first gear and crawl 20 miles an hour.

I think that’s ridiculous.”

His Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti chimed

in then: “I thought you were supposed to keep pace-car

speed.”

“Yeah, you’re supposed to keep pace-car speed, and that is the

first ever start I’ve done in first gear,” Dixon said. “So that

set it up. So whoever was in front of me got a lot of wheel

spin.”

Dixon was left futilely trying to overtake Castroneves in the

final two laps after coming off a two-lap caution.

FUZZY MULE: When Charles Barkley was growing up 10 minutes away,

there wasn’t much on the 700-acre site of Barber Motorsports

Park.

“There used to be a bar here called the Fuzzy Mule,” said

Barkley, who served as grand marshal for Sunday’s race.

The former NBA star drove down from his Atlanta home for the

event at the 7-year-old facility, mingling with Penske Team drivers

Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe. He grew up in

nearby Leeds.

“This is great for Leeds, it’s great for Birmingham, it’s great

for Alabama,” Barkley said,

Former American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, a Birmingham native

who sang the National Anthem, said he “used to go mud-running” on

the land.

One thing the bulky 6-foot-4 Barkley wasn’t doing: Climbing

behind the wheel.

“I couldn’t get a leg in an IndyCar,” he responded

quickly.

Barkley has taken a few laps around the track, which gave him

more appreciation for the pros.

“I’ve been in a car going 120 mph a couple of times and thought

I was going to have a heart attack. It’s scary going that fast,”

he said.

BARBER STOP: IndyCar drivers left Barber Motorsports Park with

mostly favorable reviews and a few suggestions.

They mostly revolved around the layout that left passing at a

premium in the race.

Franchitti would like to see “just a couple of small changes,

to promote some passing.”

He suggested extending a straightaway and putting in another

good braking zone.

“Then it would be spectacular,” he said. “To be here and see

the crowd, it was bloody amazing. That was pretty cool.”

Castroneves obviously had few complaints after his victory but

agreed that a longer straightaway would be nice.

“The layout is great. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of up-and-down

elevations,” he said. “Very difficult but it’s a lot of fun when

you get it right.”

Event officials said 53,555 fans attended Sunday’s race with a

total three-day attendance of 84,126.

Promoter Gene Hallman said the heavy walk-up crowd actually

exceeded expectations to the point that he was considering limiting

one-day sales next year.

LEGENDS: Barber will host the first Bobby Rahal Signature

Legends of Motorsports event May 21-23 with Mario Andretti

scheduled to appear. Rahal, a three-time CART champion who won the

1986 Indianapolis 500, said Sunday the event will feature “cars

that really stir the soul, so we think it’s going to be a big

hit.” Other events are scheduled for Watkin Glen, N.Y. (June

11-13); Quebec, Canada (July 9-11) and Sebring, Fla. (Dec.

3-5).