Dixon claims IndyCar Championship ....

as Castroneves wins photo finish

Helio Castroneves raced from the 28th starting position to first, winning a photo finish in the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, but it wasn’t enough to keep Scott Dixon from winning his second IndyCar Series championship.

            Castroneves started 28th due to a penalty during qualifying and raced his way through the field to take the lead on Lap 78. He led 80 laps total and was in first as the leaders pitted on Lap 185 with 15 laps to go. Series points leader Scott Dixon won the race off pit lane and led the next 14 laps as Castroneves pulled alongside for the final two. As the two took the checkered flag side-by-side, it took a review of photographs by IndyCar Series officials to determine that Castroneves had edged Dixon by .0033 of a second, the second-closest finish in IndyCar Series history.

            The IndyCar Series Timing & Scoring photo system takes a picture every ten-thousandth of a second.

            Castroneves celebrated his second victory of the season and the second time he’s finished runner-up in the championship in his career.

            Dixon maintained a 17-point lead in the championship to become the second driver to win multiple championships in the IndyCar Series. Dixon also won in 2003.

            Pole sitter Ryan Briscoe finished third.

            Hideki Mutoh won Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year honors by six points over Justin Wilson despite finishing 22nd.

            Also on Sept. 7, Raphael Matos won the Firestone Indy Lights championship with a third-place finish in the SunRichGourmet.com 100. Matos led the 66 of 67 laps after starting from the pole. His teammate Arie Luyendyk Jr. surged past him on a Lap 66 restart to earn his first career victory.

            Richard Antinucci, who entered the race only three points behind Matos, finished 21st after contact with another car knocked him out of the race on Lap 26.

            Ana Beatriz finished second, .0817 of a second behind Luyendyk, to finish third in the championship.

***

            IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira could be making his final start with Panther Racing following the announcement this week that Dan Wheldon has been signed to drive the No. 4 car for the team in 2009.

            VITOR MEIRA: “I feel like it’s important for the fans to know what I think about everything that has happened this last week. I didn’t want to leave Panther and the No. 4 car because I know how good this team is going to be next year. I feel like I’m a big part of the foundation of this team in the new generation of the IndyCar Series. I’m sad to leave, and I don’t agree with all the decisions that have been made, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about Panther Racing, and I’ll always have a lot of respect for them. I feel like I’m personal friends with every member of this team. That will never change. I’m also happy to have had the experience with all the sponsors who have supported me, especially Delphi for the two years of support and trust. The National Guard, as an institution, and the s oldiers as individuals, changed me personally and the way I look at everything. One of the key words in the National Guard is ‘honor’, and I’m honored to get to know every member of the National Guard and I always will be, even if I don’t drive their car in the future. I will always know, no matter what, that wherever I am the Guardsmen are Always Ready and Always There. I look forward to continuing my career in the IndyCar Series, and will share any updates as they come available.”

***

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE NOTES:

This is Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s first career victory in his 62nd career Firestone Indy Lights start. Luyendyk had eight career second-place finishes, including this season at Watkins Glen 2 and Infineon 1. Luyendyk has six top-five finishes this season. Raphael Matos wins the Firestone Firehawk Cup. It is the first championship for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing. Matos finishes the season with three victories, five poles and eight top-five finishes. Matos wins the championship by 32 points, the third-closest final point margin in Firestone Indy Lights history. Richard Antinucci finished 21st in the race and second in the championship. Antinucci finishes the season with two victories and nine top-five finishes. Ana Beatriz finished second, her sixth podium finish of the season. Bobby Wilson finished fourth, his third top-five finish of the season. He improved eight positions during the race. The final margin of victory of .0817 of a second ranks as the fifth-closest Firestone Indy Lights finish at Chicagoland Speedway in seven races. All seven races have finished with a margin of victory of less than .6100 of a second. ***

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE QUOTES:

ARIE LUYENDYK JR (No. 26 Targus/Automatic Fire Sprinklers, first): “It was perfect. This is a dream scenario – me winning the race and Rafa (Matos) winning the championship. It’s more than words can describe. Green, white, checkered is always nerve-wracking. We got a good restart, thank God, and Rafa and I worked beautifully today. Ana (Beatriz) was definitely a tough competitor. She was the one I was worried about. My Firestone tires held up beautifully, it was amazing. The car was so consistent from Lap 1 to the end. I made a lot of adjustments in the car. AGR/AFS, Targus, my sponsor, everyone helped out. It was just a beautiful weekend.”

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, second): “It was really hard to pass the AFS guys, they were really, really fast. They were working together, which was really tough. I tried to stay behind them. When Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) made his move, I was able to stay with him and get that second position. It was very good, finishing on the podium in second place. I am very grateful to Healthy Choice and all of the people who have helped me throughout the season. I believe we’re going to stay in the Firestone Indy Lights for one more year and fight for the championship from the beginning of the season. I am stronger and have more experience right now, and I’m hopeful that we can do well.”

BOBBY WILSON (No. 15 National Guard Delphi, fourth):  “I have to give it to the guys; they’re a well-oiled machine at Panther Racing. Their attention to detail is impeccable, and they gave me a good car to run up front. I started 12th and kept working forward and working forward.”

JAMES DAVISON (No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fifth):  “We got as high as fourth on two occasions, and P5 is the car we had today. It was an unusual race up front with the single-file drafting, and if you ever tried to make it two-wide and stay there, you’d lose momentum on the outside and then you’d get passed.”

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, third & series champion): “It was the best third-place finish of my life. We had a plan today for me to win the championship and Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) to win the race. He really deserved to win a race this year, and it worked perfectly for us. I'm very happy for him, and I'm really happy for the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing team. They deserve this championship as much as I do.” (Did they tell you that Antinucci had trouble): "Yes, they did. I told them not to drink the champagne before we finished the race.”

RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, championship runner-up): “I need to see the video but the No. 4 car did not hold a consistent line throughout the corner. We were actually banging wheels up the straight. I think he and his teammate were going through the world final championships on Lap 12. I was just trying to hold on to the philosphy of being cool and hanging back. If you look at where (Logan) Gomez is right now and we were working together, I don't know if the other car had dipped or something. I think I had moved up to sixth on that pass, that double pass. I was on the outside, I had the momentum and I had the tow to pass him. We banged wheels on the straight, which shocked me. I think he wiggled, washed out and washed up and clipped my rear tire.” (About the championship) “It's a bitter pill to swallow, losing it at the last round. But, 'ifs' and 'buts' don't take you anywhere. So there's no point. I believe we could have potentially been 120 points down the road, but that's not important today. We managed to finish second. I had a great year overall. I have to thank my Lucas Oil LifeLock Sam Schmidt Motorsports group tremendously because they helped me. We had a chance. We led most of the year, but not when it counted unfortunately.”

ARIE LUYENDYK (Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner & father of Arie Luyendyk Jr.): “It’s been a long time coming. He’s had a lot of opportunities and chances before where he’s missed out on them. There have been ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ but finally he got the job done, so it’s awesome. Last year there were a couple races he did, one-offs, and that was not the way to go. I knew that this year with a team like Andretti Green that he could show what he can do. It’s been a great year. Obviously his knee has bothered him and cost him a lot of points, but it’s still been a great year. I am happy for him more than I am happy for me. I am a big supporter of his and he doesn’t have to do this for me because I’m not a ‘pusher’ dad. Especially this year with the good people he had around him all I did was watch the race from pit lane.”

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-RACE NOTES:

Scott Dixon wins his second IndyCar Series championship by 17 points over Helio Castroneves. Dixon is the second driver to win multiple championships. Sam Hornish Jr. won three. More details on Dixon’s season are listed below. Helio Castroneves is the first driver to win a race from the 28th starting position. Buddy Lazier won from 26th at Phoenix in 2000. More details on Castroneves’ season are listed below. The margin of victory is the second-closest in IndyCar Series history. The closest finish is .0024 of a second at Chicagoland in 2002 when Sam Hornish Jr. defeated Al Unser Jr. The 10 closest finishes are listed below. Hideki Mutoh wins the Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year honors with a six-point advantage over Justin Wilson. Ryan Briscoe finished third, his fifth top-five finish of the season. Tony Kanaan finished fourth, his 11th top-five finish of the season. Will Power finished fifth, his best finish of the season on an oval. Darren Manning finished seventh, his seventh top-10 finish of the season. Milka Duno led five laps, her first laps led in the IndyCar Series. ***

NOTES ON SCOTT DIXON:

            Scott Dixon held first place in the standings in 2008 for all but three races. After winning the season opener at Homestead-Miami, Dixon fell to second with a 22nd-place finish at St. Petersburg. He rebounded to first with his win at Indianapolis.

            Dixon averaged 38.0 points per race, just shy of the 40 points awarded for finishing second.

            Since the start of the 2006 season, Dixon has 42 top-10 finishes in 48 races. In those 48 races, Dixon has 12 victories, 36 top-five finishes and has led 1,405 laps.

            Beginning with the race at Richmond in June 2007, Dixon has 21 top-five finishes in 26 races. In those 26 races, Dixon has 10 victories, 23 top-10 finishes and has led 1,089 laps. A look at Dixon’s last 25 races:

            Wins: 10

            2nd: 5

            3rd: 4

            4th: 1

            5th: 1

            8th: 1

            10th: 1

            11th: 1

            12th: 1

            22nd: 1

Dixon is the second driver to win multiple IndyCar Series championships. He also won in 2003. Dixon in the Record Book

Career wins: Moved from fifth to second with 16 wins. (Hornish Jr. 19)

Wins in a season: Tied Dan Wheldon’s record of 6 set in 2005.

Seasons with a win: Tied for fifth with five seasons with a win.

Wins from pole in a season: Set new record with four.

Career poles: Moved from fifth to second with 14 poles. (Castroneves 26)

Career laps led: Moved from eighth to fifth with 2,181. (Hornish Jr. 3,428)

Laps led in a season: Set new record with 899.

Top-five starts in a season: Set new record with 15.

***

NOTES ON HELIO CASTRONEVES:

            Helio Castroneves turned in one of the most consistent seasons in IndyCar Series history, recording a record-tying 15 top-five finishes, including a record-setting eight second-place finishes.

            Castroneves led all drivers with 15 top-five finishes and 17 races running at the finish.

            Castroneves held first place in the standings for three weeks before relinquishing the position to Scott Dixon at the Indianapolis 500 in May. After that, Castroneves held second place the final 13 weeks of the season.

            Castroneves averaged 37.0 points per race, better than the 35 points awarded for third place.

Castroneves in the Record Book

Seasons with a win: Tied Scott Sharp’s record of eight.

Consecutive seasons with a win: Set new record with eight.

Career wins from pole: Set new record with seven.

Consecutive seasons with win from pole: Tied record of three others with three.

Consecutive starts: Moved into second with 112.

Career poles: Extended his record to 26.

Career top-10 finishes: Set new record with 88.

Career top-five finishes: Tied with Tony Kanaan for all-time lead with 66.

Career races led: Set new record with 71.

Career second-place finishes: Set new record with 20.

***

INDYCAR SERIES MARGIN OF VICTORY

            1. .0024           Chicagoland Speedway                       9/8/02 Hornish Jr. over Unser Jr.

            2. .0033 Chicagoland Speedway                      9/7/08 Castroneves over Dixon

            3. .0051           Kansas Speedway                   7/4/04 Rice over Meira

            4. .0096 Texas Motor Speedway                     9/15/02            Hornish Jr. over Castroneves

            5. .0099 Chicagoland Speedway                      9/7/03 Hornish Jr. over Dixon

            6. .0111 Texas Motor Speedway                     6/8/02 Ward over Unser Jr.

            7. .0120 Kansas Speedway                  7/3/05 Kanaan over Wheldon

            8. .0121 Michigan International                       7/27/03            Barron over Hornish Jr.

            9. .0133 Chicagoland Speedway                      9/11/05            Wheldon over Castroneves

            10. .0147 Homestead-Miami Speedway          3/26/06            Wheldon over Castroneves

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-RACE QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, first): (About learning he won the race) “I found out when I was walking to the podium to receive the second-place finish. I actually thought I really won it, but sometimes when you’re going 215 mph it’s hard for me to see in the blink of an eye. But what a great effort by Team Penske. Ryan (Briscoe) helped me out tremendously. We put ourselves in that situation today. And I’m sure next year is going to be a lot of fun as well, so I can’t wait for 2009.” (About coming from last to first) “We tried to keep everything that happened behind and keep racing. I had no doubt that we’d have a good car. It was a big task but, like I said, we believed, we did everything possible. But unfortunately Scott (Dixon) was right there, too. I have to congratulate Team Ganassi, but what a great fi nish, what a wild race. It was kind of a little close, but I’m extremely happy for the way it came out here.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, second): (About the race) “We were trying to work out where we needed to be, and I think I got a little complacent in the middle there. Some of those guys are so quick, some people we didn’t expect to be racing with. We got shuffled back in line a little bit, but what a great day. I still can’t believe it.” (About whether or not this trumps his championship in 2003) “Yeah, I think it does. We had to go through the cycles. In ’03 we really knew what we won, but today was so emotional for the team. Everyone at Team Target worked together to make it happen. My hat’s off to them.” (About tough years in his career) “Yeah, it was so tough in those years. I think we tried to forget about them, but I think those years have made the team what it is today. I think those yea rs were tough, but you’ve got to have those years to make sure that you come back and work hard. I’ve got to thank Chip (Ganassi) for keeping me around. It was a revolving door there for awhile. I’ve got to thank my teammate, Dan (Wheldon). He was a great help today.”

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, third): “It was awesome. It was some really great racing there, going three-wide for a while with (Dan) Wheldon and Helio (Castroneves). It was just a really good day and a good way to end the season. We’ve had a lot of progress this year, so this was an accomplishment going into 2009. I did my best to help Helio (Castroneves). I thought he might have had it. I was under that rear wing as close as I could get, so hopefully that helped him out.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, fourth): “Today was an exciting one for the fans, and they saw a great race. It was a difficult weekend for me personally, but this was a good result for the Team 7-Eleven crew. Our goal coming into the weekend was to finish third in the championship, and we were able to do that.”

WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia, fifth): “I have never had so much fun in a race. The Aussie Vineyards–Team Australia car was good, and the crew did a great job in the pits. We picked up positions on every stop. We had good restarts. Everything was good. This has been a challenging season. The whole team has worked very hard, and I am just so happy to be able to have a good finish, especially on a mile-and-half oval. It really shows the progress the whole KVRT team has made this year.”

DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing, seventh): “In the first part of the race, we were just hanging in the draft because they were driving crazy in front of me. I wanted to get a good result and I wanted to finish. It was easier to run with the guys at the front. With 50 laps to go, I really started racing my butt off, and I had some good racing with Anthony [A.J. Foyt IV], who towed me up to the top 10. But it was a good result for the ABC Supply team, and we finished the season with another top-10 finish.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE, eighth): “We were able to take advantage of the cold tires on the restart and gain some positions at the end of the race. Unfortunately this was another character builder for us. We struggled with the car all weekend. To be able to finish in eighth, after the day we had, was a pretty good finish for the NYSE boys.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol, ninth): “We lost a spot in the points on the last lap, and that hurts, but we have a lot of things we can build on for next year. We were up and down the whole day, and it was tough to find the sweet spot with so many different guys running up front. But the guys kept fighting, and we finished in the top 10 for the year, which was a goal coming into the year.”

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, 10th): “I am really disappointed with my result because the Motorola car was much better than a ninth-place car. We took a gamble on our strategy and got burned by the yellow. We certainly wanted to end the season on a better note.”

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year): “I wish we were able to finish the 2008 season with a good finish, but I am very thankful to all the Formula Dream team for working so hard and getting No. 27 car back out on the track today. I won the Bombardier Rookie of the Year, but it hasn’t hit me yet. I am happy, but it’s really hard to celebrate it after such a disappointing race.”

***

           The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with a non-points paying race Oct. 26 at Surfers Paradise, Australia. The Nikon Indy 300 will be telecast live in High Definition at 10:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 25 by ESPN Classic and will re-air at 11 p.m. Oct. 26 on 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 has concluded.