Dixon, Castroneves eye first win at Chicagoland Scott Dixon or Helio Castroneves will emerge from the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 as the IndyCar Series champion. To do so, they’ll have to outperform the other on a track where neither has won.
Dixon, the points leader heading into the season finale, has made five starts on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway. He’s finished second three times, including last year when he saw the championship slip away on the final turn of the final lap when his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine ran out of ethanol.
“It's a tough circuit,” Dixon said. “It's one of those that provides great racing and definitely nail biting for a championship race, which is exactly what the fans want and everybody that's watching. I guess they'll definitely get that.
“I think for me it's been a mixed bag in the way of how we've done there. To never have won there is definitely frustrating. We're hoping that we can definitely turn that around this weekend. But there's a lot of other people that are going to be trying to do the same thing.”
While Dixon is winless at Chicagoland, he has been the strongest performer on 1.5-mile ovals this season. In five races, Dixon has won three times (Homestead-Miami, Texas and Kentucky) and finished third in the other two races (Motegi and Kansas). That bodes well for a man who can clinch his second career championship with a finish of eighth or better.
“I think we've got to just keep doing what we've been doing all season, and that's trying to go out and win races,” said Dixon, who has a record-tying six victories overall. “I want to go out there, I want to try to qualify on pole, and I want to try to win the race. If you do that, you're definitely going to win the championship. So obviously we want to beat one person, that's Helio. We want to do it in style. If we're able to go for a record seven victories in a single season, that's definitely what we're going to try to do. It won't be anything conservative from us.”
Castroneves needs a victory or a second-place finish at Chicagoland to have a chance at his first series title. In six starts at the track, the driver of the No. 3 Team Penske machine has a second and three fourths, including each of the last two seasons. On the 1.5-mile ovals this season, Castroneves finished second at Motegi, Texas and Kentucky and fourth at Homestead-Miami and Kansas.
“We’ve had rather mixed results on the 1.5-mile ovals over the past several seasons, so we’re going to make sure we stay focused and work hard to be competitive this weekend,” Castroneves said. “Despite these struggles, we’ve done fairly well at Chicagoland Speedway, as I’ve earned four top-four results since 2002, so hopefully this will be my year to climb the fence in Illinois.
“I’m definitely pumped for this weekend. We’ve had a very consistent, successful season and I think we’re in a great position to win the championship. All year I’ve been saying that consistency is the way to a title, and with eight second-place finishes we’re still in the hunt going into the final race. Team Penske has performed solidly all year, and I know that my guys will do everything in their power to make sure we come away with the 2008 IndyCar Series championship.”