Briscoe nips Dixon in photo finish
We have seen this story play out over and over again in IndyCar. The spec cars, so evenly matched, and all the drivers running 100% throttle, Briscoe on the outside nipped Dixon by a nose because he was running the higher line where the car binds up less and inches ahead.
"I've seen this movie before," said Dixon, who fell short to Helio Castroneves in 2008 in the second-closest series race but wrapped up the driver championship.
The 'pack-racing' finish was setup when something broke in Helio Castroneves' car with 16 laps to go sending him into the turn 4 wall and bringing out the final caution flag that bunched the field up.
"We had a great race night until that incident," said Castroneves. "The Team Penske car was running very strong, but then we had an issue with our front suspension and I ended up in the wall. It's unfortunate because we could've battled for the win there at the end. The good news is that I'm ok and now we just have to move on to Japan. Congratulations to my teammate, Ryan. He ran a fantastic race and he made some good headway in the Championship."
It was the Lap 191 restart that produced the late-race drama as Briscoe and Dixon swapped the point four times over the final nine laps - never separated by more than 0.0834 of a second. Briscoe edged ahead for good on Lap 199 (by 0.0063 of a second) and rode the right side of Dixon's No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.
It was Briscoe’s third win of the year and with Franchitti finishing 4th Briscoe increased his points lead. Briscoe picked up maximum points - 50 for his third victory of the season, 1 for earning the pole and 2 for leading the most laps - to increase his lead to 25 over Dixon with two races remaining. Dario Franchitti, who finished fourth, is 33 points back. Castroneves, who No. 3 Team Penske car sustained a suspension failure and crashed on Lap 185, was eliminated from contention.
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, race winner): "We've got to stay focused. 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."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished second): "We've all seen this movie several times. 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 (Briscoe)."
MARIO MORAES (No. 5 Azul Tequila/Votorantim/KVRT, finished third): "It's amazing. The team did a great job in the pits. Our mechanics did a great job and we had really great pit stops. The team has been working really hard for this all season and I'm really pleased with a third place finish."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, finished fifth): "Honestly, 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 warm-up, 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. The McDonald's car was top-notch. 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."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, finished sixth): "I don't know. The balance had just kind of gotten more understeer late in the race. It kind of seemed like we were better in the first half of the race and then others got better in the second half of the race than what we did. I don't know. We still had a good car at the end, but we just kept getting land-locked with guys running two and three-wide and then I would be sitting there with nowhere to go. I would rather be able to race like that, but it gets frustrating at times just because you have a good car and you get held back. The last lap was interesting because we started in ninth and got back up to sixth so it was still a good day. Obviously, we wanted to be on the podium again, so that's frustrating, but points-wise it was probably good with (Hideki) Mutoh dropping out and (Dan) Wheldon having trouble."
ORIOL SERVIA, No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, finished seventh): "It was the perfect race where you want to move to the front, but you want to take your time because it's crazy out there. Just before the last stop, I was fourth - just where you want to be - and I made a mistake coming in the pits. I tried to brake a little too late and went too far on the marks, and we wasted a little too much time trying to get to the car with the fuel. It was my fault. They were still able to do it, but we lost 10 positions. The car was good and we were able to make it back to seventh, so I'm very happy that at least we ended with a decent result. I thought we had a car to fight for the win at the end. I would have liked to be at the front. It makes me feel really good for Motegi. I know that we have a really good car for the ovals, and that I haven't lost my touch. I had a lot of fun tonight and I cannot wait until Motegi."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Air Force/Luczo Dragon Racing, finished ninth): "This was the most fun race of the season. We were running fourth with two laps to go, but Rahal chopped me in turn 4 coming to the last lap and I had to lift and that cost us a few positions. The Air Force Luczo Dragon team did a great job tonight. We gained a lot of positions in the pits because of them and that got us in the race. We had a good enough car to run in the pack and make some moves. Tonight was all about running in the pack and we proved we could do that. This race gives the team a lot of confidence heading into the last two races in Japan and Homestead. The tracks should be similar to tonight and we feel now that we have a good, consistent car heading into those races.
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, Castroneves 383, Patrick 353, Andretti 342, Kanaan 335, Rahal 331, Wheldon 318, Wilson 316.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our fourth place finisher Dario Franchitti. Dario remains second in the championship points. Dario, talk about your evening out there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it was obviously an interesting night. It was kind of a little frustrating in the way that these one‑and‑a‑half‑mile tracks are sometimes in that you would get these big runs on the guys in front, get to the outside and wouldn't be able to go anywhere.
We did our best to save some fuel at first, then I think Scott (Dixon) and I were able to go reasonably long. We were at a point in the race where I think Tony (Kanaan) was leading and Scott and I were able to work together really well to pass him, and then he pushed me. I was leading for a number of laps, almost a full fuel load, and Scott was pushing me the whole way, and we were doing pretty good lap times. That was definitely a good part of the race for me. I was enjoying that.
But shortly after that we came in for a stop, and the gun didn't get pulled from out of the - Kevin (O'Donnell), my crew chief, didn't get pulled away from him, so it got hung under the car and that cost me a lot of time, cost us the lead. Even then we were still running, the four of us, Helio (Castroneves), Scott and Ryan (Briscoe).
And then Helio, it looked like the left rear suspension broke right in front of me, and that caused a yellow and packed everybody up and made it a pretty interesting finish.
But the problem I had at the finish, I was boxed in almost, because my ideal thing would have been to get behind Briscoe, get a draft and try to go three wide and use the overtake to pass. But I had my teammate leading the race and the guy we're fighting against the championship on the outside, and these cars when you're sitting very close to the guy ahead of you, you give him a bit of a push, and I couldn't and wouldn't push anybody else apart from my teammate in that fight, and I was trying to push Scott, and that got me hung up there and allowed Moraes to get past. I had all these push to passes left but I couldn't use them because all I was going to do was run into Scott's gear box, so that was kind of frustrating.
But yeah, it was not a great night for the Target team. Obviously we're still in the fight for the championship, but Ryan did another good job tonight, and we're going to have to keep ‑‑ going to have to make something happen these next two races.
Q. How do you think your focus is on the points now?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: What is the points?
THE MODERATOR: Briscoe is at 550; you're at 525; Dixon is at 517, 33 behind.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: We're kind of in that point where we're both in the fight for the championship and we're both scoring points consistently. Right now Helio has kind of got that luxury of his teammate ‑‑ I'm sorry, Ryan has got the luxury of Helio being out of it, so he can help him a little bit. But us, both cars are still in the fight right now. I don't know, if we end up backing one horse, Chip (Ganassi) will make that decision, but as of right now we're both still going for it.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our first place finisher and our third place finisher. Ryan Briscoe, his first win here in Chicago, his third win of the season, and Ryan, .0077 finish there. We figured out the math on that, 28 and a half inches.
RYAN BRISCOE: Nice.
THE MODERATOR: Nice win there for yourself. Why don't we start with you and talk about your night out there.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it was a good night. It was definitely not as smooth as I would have liked, but had a very good car. It was fast, it was consistent. I struggled with a bit of understeer for most of it. We got a turn in front winging the last pit stop and it really helped me out for that final stage. But that first pit under yellow, I missed my marks a little bit. They couldn't get the fuel in properly and we lost a lot of positions.
And then it really got exciting for me; in the middle of the pack, really nowhere to go, it was like a wall in front of me and cars going everywhere. It was very hectic.
But it was great. It was really good racing, very close. I was just happy when finally after about 40 laps or something my spotter said, "Clear all around." It was the best thing I had heard in a long time.
Then I just had the four guys in front, and from there, you know, I just tried to keep up with those guys, and obviously the final stages with Scott were really exciting.
I didn't think I was going to have enough for him, but as soon as I was able to sort of get beside him it really slowed both of our cars down a lot and really evened things out, and that gave me the chance to beat him across the line.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, second place finisher, now within 33 points of the lead for the title. Talk about your run out there tonight.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it wasn't too bad. I think Team Target pretty much did as much as they could. I think we had great pit stops, we did a great job in strategy, saved enough fuel, extended the windows. You know, we came out probably, I don't know, 30 car lengths ahead after that last pit stop, and you know, pretty simple, we just didn't have enough speed. I could tell if it was going to come down to a head‑to‑head race at the end or the finish with Ryan or even Helio, we weren't going to have enough to get across.
I had saved a number of pushes, and I think the last eight laps, I pushed at every lap. I didn't have quite enough at the end, but you know, credit to Ryan and obviously Team Penske for doing a great job.
THE MODERATOR: Mario Moraes, our third place finisher. For Mario it's his career‑best finish. He's had two top‑5 finishes in his career, both in the last two races. Mario, talk about your run out there tonight.
MARIO MORAES: Well, first of all, I would like to say thank you for KV Racing. They did an amazing job tonight. The guys from the pit stop, they had perfect pit stops. All the guys were really quick.
Well, what a night. You know, this last month has been really tough for me, and the hardest part of all of this is be focused because everything comes passing through your mind. I want to dedicate this to my dad and say thank you for KV Racing.
Q. I believe at the end you only had two pushes left, so how were you able to kind of judiciously save those to use them when you need them?
RYAN BRISCOE: I wasn't sure. I used a lot of them through the middle of the race just trying to get some clean air, and then I looked down and I had two left. I had been a bit trigger happy for a while there. I had two laps down and we had nine laps to go on the restart. I thought, I'll use one here on the restart, see what I can do. Scott was on it, as well, I could see. So I wasn't able to make an advantage there, but I was able to defend second place.
And then, you know, I just used it at another point where I thought I was getting a good run on Scott where I thought I'd be able to get beside him. I think I got a little bit of help from behind. I'm not sure if it was Mario or Dario at the time, but as soon as I was able to get beside him, it sort of ‑‑ I don't think any push of the button could really do anything else there. The aerodynamics took over. And us running side-by-side like that just created a wall, and I think having the high line just gave me the advantage crossing the finish line.
Q. Your prospect now, having a 20‑, 25‑point lead with two races to go.
RYAN BRISCOE: No different, really. We've seen how quickly that can turn around. Just got to stay focused and try to beat these guys still. Japan and Homestead, they're going to be tough races. Hopefully we go and have a good car. I don't see any reason why we won't.
But I sort of got myself into a little bit of trouble tonight, and we've got to try to avoid those instances and run consistent, stay at the front, and we'll see what we can do.
Q. When Helio went out, did it change anything in your race?
RYAN BRISCOE: No, I actually still don't know what happened to him. I asked on the radio to Roger (Penske) if he was OK, and he said he was fine.
Q. Scott, what's your approach with 33 points back and two races to go?
SCOTT DIXON: Same as it was tonight, and that's to go out and try and win. We were trying to push, to obviously lead as many laps as possible. I think it's quite clear that we just didn't have the speed tonight. We didn't have it in qualifying and we didn't have it in the race.
Definitely as a team I think we need to redefine what we're doing on the mile-and-a-halfs and try and speed up. I think aero‑wise we're lacking a bit, whether it's in body fit and car preparation or whatever it is.
I think as a team, you know, tonight we did our best job, and we still came up short. So we've definitely got to clean a few things up.
It's going to be the same for the last two, try and go out and win, obviously try and get a pole, try and lead the most laps and try and win the races.
I'm definitely looking forward to Motegi. It's been a bit of a thorn in my side for some time, and I can't wait to get back there.
Q. Ryan, can you talk about how hard, or if it was really hard for you to maintain pace knowing you had a strong car after the slip‑up on I believe it was your first pit stop with the fuel?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it was tough. There was still half the race to go. I think it was the second stop, the first under yellow, so there was still half the race to go. I wasn't too worried at the time.
But once we got going, I got a little bit more worried because there were a lot of fast cars out there tonight, and it was just difficult to get through the wall in front of me, sort of three rows of three wide. It was difficult to find the holes and come through. I was moving forward, I was losing some positions, but then I found some rhythm, it started spacing out a little bit as tires went off a touch, and then I had my eye on the leaders.
Q. This is for Ryan. You know, in Kentucky and here you've done donuts after winning, and of course it's really exciting for the fans, they can cheer. I don't know if you can hear that. But is there any concern maybe within the team? Does this do any wear and tear on say the engine or the gear box when you do donuts?
RYAN BRISCOE: We'll change the gears (laughing).
Q. This is for all three of you if you want to answer it. The IndyCar Series kind of went at the beginning of the year where the oval races were quite mundane; now they're just hair‑raising. Do you almost kind of wish there would be a happy medium there?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I mean, at the end of the day, it's important to put on the show. It's a bit twofold. Now the racing is a lot closer, maybe a little bit scarier, whatever, but the cars feel a lot more secure in my opinion. Before you'd sort of get within a couple of car lengths and you'd still feeling loose and you'd have to be lifting and getting out of the throttle.
So in a way now I think we're all feeling a little bit secure. It's probably making a lot of us maybe a bit too confident at times, but I think the racing has been great and fairly accident‑free, I think, compared to even before when the racing wasn't as close.
SCOTT DIXON: I think we do need kind of a happy medium, seeing some of the stuff that was going on tonight. I'm not sure really how we didn't have a big accident and whether it's just waiting to happen. But as Ryan said, I think the biggest factor that we have to look at is the show that we put on, keeping everybody enthusiastic and having exciting races. We've definitely got that at the moment.
If we can maybe dial it back a little bit, it may be better for everybody. But it's putting on a good show at the moment, so it's good.
Q. Scott, with all due respect, five times you've finished runner‑up here. How frustrating is that?
SCOTT DIXON: I said in my interview, I've seen this movie before several times, so it's frustrating. I was thinking maybe for a lap or two there that we just might be able to do it. But for the majority of the night, as I said before, if it came down to that shootout I think we definitely knew we were going to lose. But it's getting pretty old, so hopefully we can turn it around at some point.
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