WEST ALLIS, Wis. - Scott Dixon came to the Milwaukee Mile this week with the IndyCar Series points lead and more than a little trepidation about facing one of American open-wheel racing's oldest oval tracks.
The 2003 series champion, who has not had much success here, has moved to the top of the standings after five races by virtue of consistency. But Dixon has yet to win a race this season, finishing second three times, including last Sunday's Indianapolis 500, and fourth twice.
Heading into Sunday's ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at the suburban Milwaukee track, Dixon holds a one-point lead over Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon, winner of two races already this season, and is three points ahead of Indy winner Dario Franchitti.
Helio Castroneves and former series champions Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr., are lurking within 33 points of Dixon with 12 races remaining in 2007.
"I think you want consistency," Dixon said. "But, at this stage in the season, you want to go out for race wins. Those three second-place finishes, that's not nearly good enough for me. I think some of them we could have turned into wins. We definitely need to do that. We'll be as aggressive as we need to be.
"It's been a little up and down in performance for us. We've missed capitalizing at a few places and we need a few answers about how to get some things done. At least we are leading the points and it's good for the team we're 1-2. But it's going to be a tough race to the end."
Facing a grueling stretch of eight races in the next 10 weeks, this could be a key weekend for both Ganassi drivers, who have struggled on the short ovals like Milwaukee's fairgrounds track.
He and Wheldon both got off to a great starts Saturday, qualifying second and fourth, respectively, on a track that has not been very good to them in the past.
Dixon has never started better than 10th and has finishes of 22nd, 13th and 10th in his three starts here for Ganassi, while Wheldon, who matched his best qualifying effort, was 10th last year, his first season with the team. The Eng-lishman finished eighth and 15th the two previous years, driving for Andretti Green Racing.
"The car's today took a big turn for us, much better," Dixon said. "We weren't very good in the morning (practice), but we made some small changes and the car just came alive."
Dixon did test here in May, but he said that really didn't give him or the team much help heading into this week-end.
"We were the only car testing, it was sort of hard to benchmark ourselves against everything," he said. "(Andretti) Green (Racing) were meant to be going to that test and pulled out at the last minute, which made it difficult.
"But I think each time we've come here and tested, we've gained a little more. And, when we've raced here, we've gained a little more."
That was apparent in the strides he and Wheldon made Saturday.
"For a driver, the short tracks are a lot of fun," Dixon said. "I've had both sides of the fence here. It's sort of a love-hate kind of thing at these places.
"When you've got a good car, this place is a lot of fun. Like today, my smile got a lot bigger from the first (practice) session to the second session and I started to have fun again."
He's hopeful that feeling will last through Sunday's 225-mile race and beyond.
"Milwaukee and Richmond, the short tracks coming up, are going to be a big of a test for us," Dixon said. "It's not a strong part of our team at this moment. Hopefully, we can turn that around this year and pick up some valuable points that we left on the table in the past."