Four remain eligible for IndyCar Series title Matos in familiar territory Potekhen returns at Infineon
1. Four remain eligible for IndyCar Series title: With three races remaining in the battle for the 2008 IndyCar Series championship, four drivers are mathematically eligible to win. Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan remain in contention for the title as the series prepares for the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County Aug. 24 at Infineon Raceway.
Dixon, who leads all drivers with 558 points, has a 78-point lead over Castroneves. Dixon has held the points lead after 11 of 14 races this season, and has held it consecutively since winning the 92nd Indianapolis 500 in May. The 2003 IndyCar Series champion has logged a record-tying six victories, and along with Castroneves, is the only driver with 12 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 seven times this season but has yet to find victory lane.
Wheldon, 138 points back, and Kanaan, 147 points back are on the brink of elimination. Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, will see his hopes for a second series championship end once Dixon takes the green flag to start the race at Infineon. Wheldon, the 2005 series champion, must win his third race of the season and have Dixon finish 13th or worse to remain alive.
That brings the battle down to Dixon and Castroneves for the championship. Although no IndyCar Series driver has clinched the championship in the third-to-last race of the season, it is possible for Dixon to do so if he extends his lead to 106 points. Several scenarios present that opportunity.
Scenarios for Scott Dixon to clinch the 2008 championship at Infineon
Dixon wins and Castroneves finishes ninth or worse
Dixon finishes second and Castroneves finishes 18th or worse
(Additional scenarios are possible if either driver earns bonus points for leading the most laps)
2. Matos in familiar territory: Raphael Matos has been in this position before. In three of the last four years, Matos has claimed a series championship. Now he's aiming to win the Firestone Indy Lights crown.
With three races remaining in the battle for the 2008 Firestone Firehawk Cup, Matos is one of 13 drivers mathematically eligible to win the title. He's just four points behind leader Richard Antinucci.
Matos has had the lead in his grasp in each of the last two race weekends. Following his win in the opening race of the Mid-Ohio doubleheader, Matos held the points lead. He tied Antinucci, who leads with 408 points, after scoring his series-best fourth pole at Kentucky on Aug. 8.
Antinucci has held the points lead after eight of 13 races this season, and hasn't been lower than second. The nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., has two wins and leads the series with seven podium finishes. Matos, though, has stayed in close contact with the leaders all season. Matos has three victories – all in the opening race during the road/street course doubleheaders.
Not to be discounted is Dillon Battistini, who has a series-best four wins, and Arie Luyendyk Jr., who climbed to within 57 points of Antinucci at Kentucky.
Both drivers can use past history in their quest to win the title. Jeff Simmons made up 58 points in the last three races on Travis Gregg to take second spot in 2005, while second-place Jonathan Klein made up nearly 40 points over the final three races on eventual champion Jay Howard the following season.
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. Hometown racer J.R. Hildebrand, who is sixth in the point standings and trails Antinucci by 71 markers, made his series debut at his "home track" in 2007 and has numerous starts and victories in junior series at the facility. Ana 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.
3. Potekhen returns at Infineon: Mike Potekhen will return to drive SWE's No. 43 XFR/Jilbrit.com car during the doubleheader weekend at Infineon Raceway.
Potekhen, who ran as high as fifth at Kentucky before a spin relegated him to 17th, has recorded top-10 finishes in each of his previous three races at Infineon Raceway, including a third-place finish in last season's Carneros 100.
“Mike is one of the greatest up-and-coming talents in the United States today,” said SWE owner Steve Eppard. “Mike has a great feel for the Dallara (chassis) and communicates well with the crew on what adjustments need to be made after a session is completed. He is a real asset to the team.
“With Mike being an accomplished road racer, it allows him to compete with the European drivers, and our expectations are set on a high finish for both days of competition. We are not running for the championship, so we are using the last three races as a test to help us prepare for the 2009 season."
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County Aug. 24 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5:30 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 indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with a doubleheader Aug. 23-24 at Infineon Raceway. The races will air at 5 p.m. Aug. 28 on ESPN2.