Castroneves wins race, Dixon title at Chicagoland
Helio Castroneves drove the race of his life from last to first in the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 Sunday 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.
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. It was sweet redemption for Dixon, who lost both the race and the championship to Dario Franchitti last year at Chicagoland Speedway when he ran out of fuel on the last lap.
Castroneves' Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe was right behind the two at the finish to take third. Tony Kanaan finished fourth for Andretti Green Racing, as KV Racing's Will Power snatched fifth in the closing laps.
Castroneves set a new record by coming from 28th on the grid to take victory. Just 4 seconds covered the top 12 drivers at the finish in a race that saw spectacular pack racing in the top ten all afternoon.
Dixon becomes the fourth straight Indianapolis 500 winner to go on to earn the series championship. It was done by Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr. and Franchitti in previous years.
Hideki Mutoh won Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year honors by six points over Justin Wilson despite finishing 22nd.
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 finish, 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 years 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.”
Winner's average speed: 150.648 mph
Time of race: 2:01:04.5907
Margin of victory: 0.0033 of a second
Cautions: 7 caution flags for 53 laps
Lead changes: 22 lead changes among 6 drivers
Briscoe 1-39, Kanaan 40-77, Castroneves 78-93, Briscoe 94, Castroneves 95, Wheldon 96-98, Castroneves 99-100, Wheldon 101-102, Castroneves 103-105, Wheldon 106, Castroneves 107-130, Briscoe 131, Kanaan 132-140, Duno 141-145, Castroneves 146-165, Wheldon 166, Castroneves 167-171, Wheldon 172-175, Castroneves 176, Wheldon 177-178, Castroneves 179-185, Dixon 186-199, Castroneves 200.
Dixon 646, Castroneves 629, Kanaan 513, Wheldon 492, Briscoe 447, Patrick 379, Andretti 363, Hunter-Reay 360, Servia 358, Mutoh 346.
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