New Zealander Scott Dixon, South African Tomas Scheckter’s team-mate, scored an upset victory on his first outing in the Indy Racing League series at the weekend.

New Zealander Scott Dixon, South African Tomas Scheckter’s team-mate, scored an upset victory on his first outing in the Indy Racing League series at the weekend.

The 22-year-old, known to his fans as the Thunder from Down Under, held off a late charge by Gil de Ferran to win the Toyota Indy 300, a 200-lap race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Kiwi’s Team Target Panoz G Force Toyota finished 0,5752 seconds ahead of the Brazilian’s Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota. De Ferran’s team-mate Helio Castroneves finished in third place, giving Toyota a clean sweep of the podium.

"We knew we had a pretty comfortable car in traffic and I just did everything I could to keep Gil behind me," Dixon said. "Coming out of the pits in front of Gil was the key to the race. Today I really had fun, and I haven't had fun on an oval for quite a while."

Scheckter’s Team Target Panoz G Force Toyota ran strongly at the beginning and in the middle of the race, moving all the way up to third by lap 56. However, the Capetonian struggled with a lack of grip in the closing stages of the race and finished eighth. "We had a strong car at the beginning of the race, and I felt that we had a chance to win it," he said.

In the early part of the race, having disposed of front row starters Tony Kanaan and Michael Andretti, de Ferran and Castroneves had their own personal battle, particularly on the restarts. "The shifting winds caused handling problems for me toward the end of the race. My car was good at the start but worse toward the end," Castroneves explained.

Kanaan rebounded to take fourth in the 7/Eleven Dallara/Honda. While he led a total of 36 laps for the day, Kanaan "tried to dial the car in throughout the race, but we didn't quite get there. We made a little mistake changing the wings, but we went back and the car was great again."

Scott Sharp ran strongly in the Delphi Dallara/Toyota and left the top five only during pit stop reshuffles. "All the cars were really equal out there today," Sharp said. "It was pretty tight competition near the end and I just couldn't capitalize on it."

Michael Andretti finished sixth in the 7/Eleven Dallara Honda and team-mate Dario Franchitti earned seventh place for his Alpine Archipelago Motorola Dallara Honda. Both stated their race set-ups could have been better. "We kept improving the car but the imbalance kept returning," Franchitti stated.

Sam Hornish Jr., who won this race last year in the Pennzoil Panther Dallara Chevrolet, ended up in ninth place. Kenny Brack rounded out the top ten in his Pioneer Miller Lite Dallara Honda.

The IRL's IndyCar Series will continue on March 23 with the Purex Dial 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.