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The reality, team manager Mike Hull said, is that the New Zealand driver is very similar to the Pittsburgh-bred team owner.

“His demeanor is a lot like Chip in a lot of ways. He’s very much to the point. He’s able to come right at us with the good things and the bad things, and then move on,” Hull said. “The culture and personality of our team is quite that way, so he’s blended quite well. He is very, very unselfish. He is not afraid to have everything right up here on top of the table with his teammates or with the engineer for the other driver or with the guys who work on the car. It doesn’t matter to him. Because he feels his actions on the race track will benefit because it will be valued back to him from his teammates.”

Never was that more apparent than last year when he and Franchitti dominated the Indianapolis 500. Dixon led 53 laps and Franchitti led 23 _ including the final one. He wound up second to Franchitti _ same result as 2007 _ and appeared crestfallen as he climbed from his car. But he was at Franchitti’s victory party later that night, supporting his friend on his own bitter day.

“I don’t know if he’ll give you a true answer to that, but I knew it hurt him. It would have hurt me, too,” Franchitti said. “He drove a very, very good race. It was between the two of us who was going to get it done, and it was just circumstance as much as anything. I took one strategy to be in front in case there was a yellow and he took another. That’s what it came down to.”

Dixon shrugged this week when asked about the 500.

“Indy sucks unless you win. So much goes into it and coming with a team that’s always competitive _ that’s what you go there for, to win. Second is great but nobody really cares,” he said. “But I think if I can’t win, the next best person is my teammate. Well, if they are a nice teammate. And Dario kind of falls into that category.”

Then Dixon explained all the reasons why Franchitti’s win was special, noting that he did it while driving a special No. 50 car to commemorate Target’s 50th anniversary.

“It was a perfect scenario, a 1-2 finish, a good deal,” Dixon said. “I was happy about a lot of things, except maybe the placings being reversed.”

It didn’t stick with Dixon long, though. He went into Detroit the next week and picked up the first of his two wins last year.

“I think once you go through your career, you understand some things go your way and some things do not,” Dixon said. “Sometimes you win races or championships you weren’t meant to win. It’s racing. You just go with it.”