Chicago ready to crown third IndyCar Series champion
The IndyCar Series champion will be crowned at Chicagoland Speedway for the third consecutive season. This year’s battle features Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, neither who have won at the 1.5-mile oval. Dixon, who leads Castroneves by 30 points, has finished second three times in five starts, including last year when he ran out of fuel in the final turn of the final lap. His average finish in five starts is 6.4. Castroneves has three consecutive top-four finishes at Chicagoland, including a second in 2005. His average finish in six starts is 7.3. Who will fare better at Chicagoland?
Dixon dominant on 1.5-mile ovals
Scott Dixon has built his lead in the championship with a record-tying six victories, including wins from the pole on the 1.5-mile ovals at Homestead-Miami, Texas and Kentucky. He also finished third on the 1.5-mile ovals at Motegi and Kansas. In the five races on 1.5-mile ovals, Dixon has led 522 of 1,028 laps (50.8%). Overall this season, Dixon leads all drivers with 867 laps led and six poles. Can Dixon close out the season with another win on a 1.5-mile oval and claim his second IndyCar Series championship?
Castroneves slicing into deficit
Helio Castroneves has dogged Dixon all season, cutting 48 points from his deficit in the past two races. Castroneves is the only driver with 14 top-five finishes in the season’s first 16 races. He earned a victory at Infineon, and he has a record eight second-place finishes. Castroneves has three seconds and two fourths on 1.5-mile ovals this season and has led laps in each race (189). Does Castroneves have enough to overcome the deficit and win his first IndyCar Series championship?
More battles rage
Deeper in the field, other tight battles are being fought. Just 17 points separate Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon for third place in the standings. A difference of $50,000 in TEAM prize money is at stake. Forty-nine points separate Danica Patrick, Oriol Servia, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Hideki Mutoh, Justin Wilson, Vitor Meira and Ed Carpenter for sixth through 13th. Mutoh also holds a 13-point lead over Justin Wilson for Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year honors with Will Power 33 points behind. The Rookie of the Year will earn a $50,000 bonus. How will these drivers fare during the season’s final race?
Briscoe makes Chicago return
Ryan Briscoe will compete at Chicagoland Speedway for the first time since a spectacular crash at the track in 2005. While Briscoe was uninjured, it was his final race for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. He made four starts in 2006 for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and one start in 2007 with Luczo Dragon Racing before landing a ride with Team Penske in 2008. Briscoe has locked up fifth place in the standings on the strength of two victories and 10 top-10 finishes. How will Briscoe approach his return to the Windy City?
Transitioning to Chicago
Chicago will mark the end of a hectic season for the five teams and nine drivers that joined the IndyCar Series just weeks before the green flag dropped at Homestead-Miami. Chicago-based Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has earned two victories with Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson, and KV Racing Technology’s Oriol Servia ranks seventh in points. How will these drivers and teams finish out the season?
The PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 will be the eighth IndyCar Series event conducted at Chicagoland Speedway. Two-time winner Dan Wheldon (2005-06) is the only past winner entered in the event. Past pole winners Helio Castroneves (2004) and Danica Patrick (2005) are entered.
Eighteen drivers entered in the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 have competed in previous races at Chicagoland Speedway. Nine of those drivers led laps (Dan Wheldon 307, Tomas Scheckter 114, Tony Kanaan 90, Helio Castroneves 75, Buddy Rice 66, Scott Dixon 65, A.J. Foyt IV 3, Vitor Meira 1 and Danica Patrick 1).
The PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 will be the sixth race on a 1.5-mile oval this season. Target Chip Ganassi Racing has dominated on those tracks, winning four poles and four races. Scott Dixon won the pole at Homestead-Miami, Kansas, Texas and Kentucky and won the races at Homestead-Miami, Texas and Kentucky. Teammate Dan Wheldon won the race at Kansas. Andretti Green Racing’s Danica Patrick earned her first career victory at Motegi.
· Helio Castroneves is the only driver to finish in the top five in 14 of the 16 races this season.
· Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan are the only drivers with 14 top-10 finishes.
· Helio Castroneves is the only driver running at the finish of every race in 2008.
· Nine drivers have won races in 2008, tying the IndyCar Series record set in 1996/97, 2002, 2003 and 2005. This year’s winners are: Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal, Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson.
· Scott Dixon has six victories this season, tying Dan Wheldon’s record set in 2005.
· Scott Dixon has established a new IndyCar Series record by winning from the pole four times this season. The past record was two, which had been done six times.
· Ryan Briscoe needs one more victory in 2008 to become the 13th driver to win three or more races in a season. That has happened 18 times in IndyCar Series history.
· A.J. Foyt Racing has its most top-10 finishes (6) since Eliseo Salazar had seven for the team in 2001.
· Teammates have started 1-2 in six races this season, tying the record set in 2005.
Milestones & Records:
Helio Castroneves will attempt to make his 114th career IndyCar Series start. It would also be his 112th consecutive start, which is the second-longest streak all time. Helio Castroneves established an IndyCar Series record for most consecutive seasons with at least one win with his win at Infineon. Castroneves has victories in eight consecutive seasons. Helio Castroneves extended his IndyCar Series record for consecutive seasons with a pole to seven when he won the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award at Nashville. His pole at Infineon was the 26th of his career. Scott Dixon has moved into second with 14 career poles. Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves have 65 career top-five finishes, tied for first all time in IndyCar Series history. Helio Castroneves has passed Scott Sharp as the all-time leader in top-10 finishes. Castroneves has 87. Sharp has 82. Scott Dixon has led 885 laps this season. The record for most laps led in a season is 889 by Tony Kanaan in 2004. Scott Dixon has become the fifth driver to lead more than 2,000 laps in his career (2,167). The others to lead at least 2,000 laps are Sam Hornish Jr. (3,428), Helio Castroneves (2,977), Dan Wheldon (2,735) and Tony Kanaan (2,488). Helio Castroneves has led laps in 70 IndyCar Series races, passing Sam Hornish Jr. (67) for the all-time record. Vitor Meira has gone 92 starts without a victory in the IndyCar Series, the longest drought of any IndyCar Series driver. Helio Castroneves has won a record seven races from the pole. Scott Dixon has moved into second place with 16 career victories. Sam Hornish Jr. holds the record with 19. Helio Castroneves holds the record for most career second-place finishes (20).
Race for Firestone Firehawk Cup to be decided at Chicagoland
The race for the Firestone Firehawk Cup and the Firestone Indy Lights title concludes with a winner-take-all showdown at Chicagoland Speedway. Brazil's Raphael Matos leads San Diego resident Richard Antinucci by three points entering the season-finale. Matos, who has won titles in nearly every series he has entered since moving to the United States in 2002, will try to deliver the first Firestone Indy Lights title for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing.
More trophies to be decided
While Raphael Matos and Richard Antinucci's battle for the Firestone Firehawk Cup, several drivers will be locked in two separate battles over prizes of their own. Ana Beatriz, J.R. Hildebrand, Dillon Battistini and Arie Luyendyk Jr. are battling for third place in the championship and the final honoree's seat at the Indy Racing League Championship Celebration in Las Vegas.
Another Photo Finish?
Chicagoland Speedway features some of the closest racing in Firestone Indy Lights. In 2007, Logan Gomez beat Alex Lloyd by .0005 of a second – the closest finish in auto racing history according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Four of the six races at Chicagoland have featured a margin of victory of less than 0.1 of a second.
Familiar names race in Chicagoland
The SunRichGourmet.com 100 entry list features several drivers hoping to emulate their family’s success in open-wheel racing
· Richard Antinucci, the nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., drives the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Antinucci will try to capture his first Firestone Indy Lights title in his first start at Chicagoland Speedway.
· Sean Guthrie, driver of the No. 4 Carcrafters Guthrie Racing car, is the son of three-time Indianapolis 500 starter Jim Guthrie. Guthrie will make his third start at Chicagoland Speedway in search of his first win.
· Arie Luyendyk Jr., driver of the No. 26 Andretti Green Racing/AFS Racing car, also seeks his first series win at Chicagoland. The second-generation driver, who makes his fifth start at Chicagoland Speedway, is the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk.
Sweet Home Chicago
Several drivers racing this weekend consider Chicagoland Speedway their hometown track. Defending Chicagoland race winner Logan Gomez, who will defend his title with Guthrie Racing,is a native of Crown Point, Ind., while Jonathan Klein and Brent Sherman both call the northern suburbs of Chicago home. Klein, who drives for Team Moore Racing, is from Long Grove, Ill., while Sherman, who drives for Panther Racing, lives in Wauconda, Ill.
Season To Date:
· A record-setting nine drivers have won races this year – Dillon Battistini, Raphael Matos, Richard Antinucci, J.R. Hildebrand, Bobby Wilson, Ana Beatriz, James Davison, Franck Perera and Pablo Donoso. Battistini has the most wins with four (Homestead, Indianapolis, Iowa and Kentucky). Matos (three ) and Antinucci (two) are the only other drivers with multiple wins.
· A record-tying six drivers have won the SWE Pole Award this season – Raphael Matos, Dillon Battistini, Pablo Donoso, Arie Luyendyk Jr.., Franck Perera and James Davison. Matos is the only driver to win more than one pole (Homestead, St. Pete, Mid-Ohio and Kentucky).
· Richard Antinucci has finished on the podium in eight of the 15 races this season. He won St. Petersburg 2 and Watkins Glen 2 and finished second at Homestead, St. Petersburg 1, Indianapolis and Watkins Glen 1. Antinucci was third at Mid-Ohio 1 and Infineon 1.
· Arie Luyendyk Jr. will attempt to make his 62nd Firestone Indy Lights start at Infineon Raceway, which would extend his series record.
Schedule (local time):
8-9 a.m. – Firestone Indy Lights practice
9:15-11 a.m. – IndyCar Series practice
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Firestone Indy Lights practice (two groups)
12:30-1:30 p.m. – IndyCar Series practice (two groups)
2-3 p.m. – SWE Pole Qualifying
3:15-4:30 p.m. – PEAK Motor Oil Pole Qualifying presented by AutoZone
11 a.m. – SunRichGourmet.com 100 pre-race
11:30 a.m. – SunRichGourment.com 100 (67 laps/100 miles)
1:30 p.m. – PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 pre-race
2:30 p.m. – PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 (200 laps/300 miles)