Briscoe Noses Past Dixon To Win Chicagoland Thriller

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 30 2009
Ryan Briscoe beats Scott Dixon to the finish line by a nose and the third- and fourth-place cars of Mario Moraes and Dario Franchitti by a car length. (IndyCar Series photo by Shawn Payne)

Ryan Briscoe beats Scott Dixon to the finish line by a nose and the third- and fourth-place cars of Mario Moraes and Dario Franchitti by a car length. (IndyCar Series photo by Shawn Payne)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The finish of Saturday night’s Indycar Series race at Chicagoland Speedway required second and, perhaps, third viewings to determine just who had won.

With just two races now remaining, with the cars once again producing the best racing on ovals anywhere, it appears that the 2009 series championship may end up being equally close and dramatic.

Ryan Briscoe beat Scott Dixon to the finish line by .0077 seconds at Chicago. That looked to be by about a foot and a half on photos of the finish. And those two were just yards ahead of a big pack of other cars who also had shots at the win.

The margin of victory was the fourth closest in series history and allowed Briscoe to put a bit more padding between him and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars in the point standings.

Briscoe stretched his lead over Dario Franchitti, who finished fourth at Chicagoland, from five to 25 points. Dixon will start the next race, which is in Japan, in third place, 33 points behind Briscoe.

“We’ve got to stay focused,” Briscoe said. “The Target cars are going to be there in Motegi and Homestead, so we just have to stay focused. We’ve had good cars on all the mile-and-half ovals this year. We’ve just got to keep it together. We had a couple of mistakes tonight but were able to come back. We’ve just have to try to avoid those situations.”

It was Briscoe’s third victory of the season.

Briscoe and Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing ran side by side over most of the final nine laps which followed the final restart of the evening.

Dixon had the lead at the green flag after the caution but with four to go, was passed by Briscoe.

From there the two drivers took turns inching ahead of each other.

Briscoe said that when he hit the finish line the final time, he was unsure who had won the race. Dixon said that he knew who won.

“We’ve all seen this movie several times,” Dixon said. “Unfortunately at Chicago, we just keep finishing second. The whole night, I think we drove a better race. The guys on the team did a fantastic job. The pit stops were flawless. We launched out there a few times but we just didn’t have the speed. Our mile-and-half dominance that we seemed to have last year on the Target team has just really been affected. We need to play catch up with Penske. They clearly are a lot faster than us. That’s all I had. Great job by Ryan.”

The two front runners could not afford to make a mistake as they raced for the victory over the final laps because right on their gearboxes was a pack of other cars which appeared equally as fast.

Mario Moraes finished third from the group while finishing fifth was Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter was sixth.

Rahal said he was so close over the final laps he could smell victory.

“Honestly,” he said, “when I went up high, I thought we were going to get it (win) finally because the car had so much momentum. The McDonald’s car felt good all night, and it’s no doubt we will win one soon.

“I was just trying to get us an opportunity, and we got it. I pulled out of the draft, went up high and (the momentum) just died. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough speed. When you go up that high, the distance your taking there is massive, and unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough speed. Before this race was the most nervous I’ve ever been. I was watching people darn near hitting each other on the back straight last night in the warmup, so I knew it would be a crazy race. It was action-packed from start to finish.

“The idea was to get up front and just try to stay there. If we could stay there, we were going to be with guys that know what they’re doing. The McDonald’s guys worked hard tonight. I told them we needed good stops, and the second to last stop was what really put us in this position. It was great what we did tonight. It just shows that we can beat these guys. It’s going to take some effort but for us to be where we are now we’ve got to be pretty happy.”

Helio Castroneves was eliminated from championship contention after he crashed 16 laps from the end. He was running third at the time.

Following the race at Twin Motegi near Tokyo, the series will conclude at Miami-Homestead Speedway in Florida.

Both races are on ovals, which, since a decision by Indy Racing League officials to tweak the cars, have become racing’s home for drama.

Worth noting:

* The 25 point differential between 1st and 2nd place is the fourth closest in IndyCar Series history with two races remaining. Four points separated Dixon and Franchitti in 2007, Hornish led Castroneves by seven in 2006, Castroneves led Dixon by 12 in 2007 and Castroneves led de Ferran by 1 point in 2002 with two races remaining on the schedule.

* The 33 point differential between 1st and 3rd place is the fourth closest in IndyCar Series history with two races remaining. In 2006 Hornish led 3rd place Wheldon by 24 points, Castroneves led Kanaan by 14 points in 2003 and Castroneves led Hornish by 8 points in 2002 with two races remaining.

* The top three drivers in points are the only drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2009 IndyCar Series championship with two races remaining.

Results Saturday of the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 IndyCar Series event at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

2. (6) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

3. (8) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

4. (3) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

5. (5) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

6. (12) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

7. (9) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

8. (14) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

9. (17) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

10. (15) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

11. (7) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

12. (10) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

13. (4) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running

14. (19) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running

15. (18) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running

16. (16) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running

17. (20) E.J. Viso, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running

18. (22) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 197, Running

19. (23) Jaques Lazier, Dallara-Honda, 195, Running

20. (2) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 184, Contact

21. (21) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 155, Mechanical

22. (11) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 95, Mechanical

23. (13) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 90, Contact

Race Statistics

Winner’s average speed: 177.826 mph

Time of race: 1:42:34.3051

Margin of victory: 0.0077 of a second

Cautions: 3 caution flags for 23 laps

Lead changes: 18 among 6 drivers

Lap leaders: Briscoe 1-46, Dixon 47-55, Briscoe 56-59, Dixon

60, Briscoe 61-74, Castroneves 75-95, Dixon 96-102,

Castroneves 103, Dixon 104-106, Castroneves 107, Dixon 108-

112, Scheckter 113-116, Kanaan 117-123, Franchitti 124-157,

Briscoe 158-160, Dixon 161-195, Briscoe 196-197, Dixon 198,

Briscoe 199-200.

Point standings: Briscoe 550, Franchitti 525, Dixon 517,

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 30 2009
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