Contenders frustrated at Detroit Three points separate Firestone Indy Lights contenders Public to vote for Firestone “Tire”-rific move of the race Drivers reap post-race awards
1. Contenders frustrated at Detroit: Neither Scott Dixon nor Helio Castroneves left Detroit happy. The two championship contenders both felt they could have fared better in the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park on Aug. 31.
Dixon, who maintains a 30-point lead in the championship, led the first 18 laps from the pole but shuffled back to 18th after his first pit stop. He never got higher than fifth after that.
“The car was clearly quicker than anybody's,” said Dixon, who a has record-tying six victories this season. “We were saving a ton of fuel up front and sort of having a merry old day, and that changed pretty quickly. We left with a half tank after that caution. I think I was probably the only person or maybe a couple of others. It's just a hard situation when you're in that point when nobody else pits and you have a lot of slower guys that pitted early on and have a lot of fuel and you have to try to pass them. That was pretty much the race. Then from that point on, we were just trying to pull up there.”
Castroneves led a race-high 53 laps but was forced to give away the top position on Lap 73 when race officials penalized him for blocking eventual race winner Justin Wilson.
“Since I've been here since 2002, I always did that, and you got a warning,” Castroneves said. “If you do it again, now you're penalized. But it was all of a sudden. Now I've got to give the position to (Justin Wilson). I'm like, “Wait a minute.” You could see the next lap I was already three cars away from him. So it's not something that we see many, many times. It was just an unusual call. And I really don't know why they did that. I'm very surprised.”
The two will have to forget about Detroit and focus on preparing for the 1.5-mile oval at Chicagoland Speedway, where the final race in the 2008 championship will take place Sept. 7.
“I can't let this bother me for the next race, because we have to race next weekend,” Castroneves said. “So what are we going to do? Definitely tomorrow we'll turn the page and work as hard as we can. Because the good news, we're still battling for the championship. We're going to have a lot of work again. We know what we need to do. We know we're going after a good team. But I trust my guys, I trust my team, and I know we can do it.”
One of them will leave Chicagoland Speedway very happy.
2. Three points separate Firestone Indy Lights contenders: After 15 races on a diverse combination of ovals, road courses and temporary street circuits, the race for the Firestone Firehawk Cup and the Firestone Indy Lights title has come down to a winner-take-all race on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway.
The combatants have never been closer.
Brazilian rookie Raphael Matos leads Richard Antinucci by three points – the closest race in Firestone Indy Lights history.
Matos, who has won titles in nearly every series he has raced in since moving to the U.S. in 2002, hopes to give AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing its first series title. He claimed wins on the street course at St. Petersburg 1 and the permanent circuits at Watkins Glen International 1 and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course 1. He's also shown speed on the ovals, earning pole positions at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.
The title would be the highlight to his first season with one of open-wheel racing's best teams.
"The championship has been my goal all year," Matos said.
Antinucci, the nephew of Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., is trying to deliver the third straight drivers championship to Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Antinucci claimed wins at St. Petersburg 2 and Watkins Glen 2 and is seeking his first series championship.
"The points have been tight all year," Antinucci said. "I have a lot of respect for Matos. Matos is considered one of the best up-and-coming open-wheel racers in the whole continent. He's also one of the best I've ever raced against. I'm not surprised that we have to fight tooth and nail to keep the title at Sam's shop because the level this season is quite high."
And both are trying to bring the first Firestone Indy Lights championship back to their country. Thiago Medeiros (2004) is the only Brazilian to win the series title, while Antinucci is quick to point out that A.J. Foyt IV was the last American who was able to pull off a championship run.
"It’s time for a driver who has an American flag on the cockpit to win this thing, right?" Antinucci said.
Chicagoland: Antinucci and Matos have never raced at Chicagoland.
History with one race remaining
2007 (After Race 14 of 15)
Driver Points Final PositionAlex Lloyd 601 1stHideki Mutoh 481 2nd
2006 (After Race 11 of 12)
Driver Points Final PositionJay Howard 354 1stJonathan Klein 346 2ndBobby Wilson 335 4thWade Cunningham 327 3rd
2005 (After Race 13 of 14)
Driver Points Final PositionWade Cunningham 467 1stJeff Simmons 434 2ndTravis Gregg 426 3rd
2004 (After Race 11 of 12)
Driver Points Final PositionThiago Medeiros 459 1stPaul Dana 360 2nd
2003 (After Race 11 of 12)
Driver Points Final PositionMark Taylor 466 1stJeff Simmons 367 2nd
2002 (After Race 6 of 7)
Driver Points Final PositionA.J. Foyt IV 238 1stArie Luyendyk Jr. 210 2ndEd Carpenter 194 3rd
3. Public to vote for Firestone “Tire”-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three “Tire”-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.
Helio Castroneves won the fans’ vote from the race at Infineon and was awarded $10,000.
From the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone, fans can choose from:
A.J. Foyt IV for driving to a solid 10th-place finish, advancing seven position. Justin Wilson for overcoming an ill-handling car in the morning warm-up for his first victory. Bruno Junqueira for climbing from 24th place to finish seventh.
In past seasons, Firestone has awarded the bonus to the driver who led the lap that corresponded to the total number of races in IndyCar Series history.
4. Drivers reap post-race awards: Justin Wilson reaped the benefits from winning the Detroit Indy Grand Prix. Wilson was presented an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2008. Wilson also collected $5,000 for the DirecTV Crystal Clear Moment of the Race, the $2,000 Lincoln Welders Hard Charger Award for being the race leader who started furthest back and $1,000 from Bosch.
Scott Dixon won the $10,000 PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award, and Oriol Servia won the $2,000 XTrac Award.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. 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 concludes Sept. 7 with the SunRichGourmet.com 100 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will air live at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 7 on ESPN2.