Six remain eligible for IndyCar Series title Intense battle for Firestone Firehawk Cup
1. Six remain eligible for IndyCar Series title: With four races remaining in the battle for the 2008 IndyCar Series championship, six drivers are mathematically eligible to win. Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Danica Patrick all remain alive for title contention.
Dixon, who leads all drivers with 505 points, has a 65-point lead over Castroneves. Dixon has held the points lead after 10 of 13 races this season, and has held it consecutively since winning the 92nd Indianapolis 500 in May. The 2003 IndyCar Series champion has recorded five victories, and along with Castroneves, is the only driver with 11 top-five finishes.
Castroneves has stayed a close second behind Dixon since Indianapolis. Castroneves, who led the points for three races in April, has finished second six times this season but has yet to find victory lane.
Wheldon, the 2005 IndyCar Series champion, started the season with a third-place finish on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami and followed with a victory on the 1.5-mile oval at Kansas. He also won at Iowa and has eight top-five finishes in 2008. He trails Dixon, his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, by 115 points.
Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion, is just three points behind Wheldon for third. Kanaan has two poles and a victory in 2008, and along with Dixon and Castroneves is the only driver with 11 top-10 finishes this season.
Briscoe, in his first season driving for Team Penske, has wasted no time throwing himself into championship contention. Following a slow start to the season that saw him finish 19th or worse in three of the first five races, Briscoe has recorded two victories. He is 181 points behind Dixon.
Patrick is 209 points behind Dixon. The Andretti Green Racing driver has not been lower than seventh in the point standings all season and was as high as third following her first career victory at Motegi in April.
Kentucky: Dixon has three second-place finishes in five starts, including the last two seasons. Castroneves has four top-fives in six starts. Wheldon has three top-four finishes in four starts. Kanaan won last year’s race and has two other top-five finishes. Briscoe finished 13th in his only start in 2005. Patrick won the pole in 2005 and has a best finish of eighth in three starts.
Infineon: Dixon won last year’s race and has not finished worse than seventh in three starts. Castroneves was second last year. Wheldon has two top-10s. Kanaan won the first race at Infineon in 2005 and finished fourth last year. Briscoe won the pole and led 16 laps in 2005. He has finished 16th and 19th in two starts. Patrick has two top-10s.
Belle Isle: Dixon finished eighth after spinning late in the race. Castroneves led 26 laps but crashed and finished 14th. Wheldon finished third. Kanaan won last year’s race. Patrick finished second, a career-best on a road/street course.
Chicagoland: Dixon has finished second three times in five starts, including the last two seasons. Castroneves has four top-fours in six starts. Wheldon has won twice and was running at the front last year before running out of fuel on the last lap. Kanaan has never finished worse than seventh in five starts. Briscoe was involved in a spectacular crash in his only start in 2005 and finished 22nd. Patrick has one top-10 in three starts.
2. Intense battle for Firestone Firehawk Cup: One of the closest title battles in Firestone Indy Lights history is also one of its most competitive.
With four races remaining in the battle for the 2008 Firestone Firehawk Cup, 15 drivers are mathematically eligible to win, with frontrunners Raphael Matos, Ana Beatriz, J.R. Hildebrand, Arie Luyendyk Jr., and Dillon Battistini within 77 points of points leader Richard Antinucci.
Antinucci, who leads with 376 points, has a 1-point advantage over Matos. Antinucci has held the points lead after seven of 12 races this season, and hasn't been lower than second. The nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner has two wins and leads the series with seven podium finishes.
Matos, who is hoping to add his third championship crown in four seasons, has stayed in close contact with the leaders all season. Matos has a series-best three victories – all on road/street courses – and climbed from fourth to the top of the point standings from Watkins Glen to Mid-Ohio 1.
Beatriz, the first female driver to win a Firestone Indy Lights race, moved from sixth to third following her win at Nashville Superspeedway. Beatriz, who has five top-five finishes in the last six races, trails Antinucci, her Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate, by 41 points.
Hildebrand is just seven points behind Beatriz for third. The Sausalito, Calif., driver has more top-10 finishes than any other driver in the series (10) and a victory at Kansas Speedway in April.
Luyendyk, the most experienced driver in the series, has put together a solid season despite being in the shadow of his teammate Matos. The son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk won the pole for the Iowa race and finished a season-best second. He's 60 points behind Antinucci.
Battistini, who is tied with Matos for most wins, is 77 points behind Antinucci. The Panther Racing driver has not been lower than sixth in the point standings all season and led the standings following his victory at Iowa in June.
Kentucky: Luyendyk has four starts at Kentucky with a best finish of fourth in 2003 and 2004. His last start at the track was 2006. Antinucci, Matos, Beatriz, Hildebrand and Battistini have never raced at Kentucky in any series.
Infineon: Antinucci won the pole and recorded a win and a second place in the two races at Infineon in 2007. Matos last raced at Infineon in Star Mazda in 2005, finishing fourth and second in a doubleheader event. Hildebrand made his series debut at his "home track" in 2007 and has numerous starts and victories in junior series at the facility. Beatriz Luyendyk and Battistini will be making their first starts at the track.
Chicagoland: Luyendyk has four starts at Chicagoland with a best finish of second in 2003 and 2004. His last start at the track was 2006 when he finished sixth. Antinucci, Matos, Beatriz, Hildebrand and Battistini have never raced at Chicagoland in any series.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Meijer Indy 300 Aug. 9 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and ndycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Kentucky 100 on Aug. 9. The race will air at 2 p.m. Aug. 14 on ESPN2.