Points leader Dixon faces new challenge
Scott Dixon entered the 2008 race at Kentucky Speedway with a 65-point lead over Helio Castroneves in the championship standings. Then-Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon was third (115 points back).
Dixon doesn't have such a cushion this week as he seeks to successfully defend the race win in the Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Red Baron and Edy's. Dario Franchitti is three points back and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe is 14 points arrears with six races remaining.
There's been a different points leader after each of the past five races, and only Briscoe has led after two consecutive events (Texas and Iowa in June) all season.
"I just want to be leading the championship at Homestead," said Dixon, pointing to the Oct. 9 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "It's good for pit position sometimes throughout the season and may come into play at some of these races that are coming up. You've just got to make sure that you're consistent, don't fall out of the chase or out of the championship part of it with two races to go.
"I don't think it's played too much on the mind of the team or myself or Dario. Every race you're trying to do the best and you're trying to win it. We got caught up in trying to drive for points last year, and we definitely lost a big margin that we had. You've just got to concentrate on getting the best points you can each race."
Dixon's record-tying sixth victory of the season at Kentucky Speedway increased his points lead over Castroneves to 78, though that gap dwindled in succeeding races at Infineon and Belle Isle. The title was decided - for the third year in a row - in the finale at Chicagoland Speedway.
The dramatic ending on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval saw Dixon close in on Castroneves over the final two laps, catching and passing the No. 3 Team Penske car when it ran dry of fuel through the final two turns. Dixon had led 151 of the 200 laps after starting from the pole in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.
"It was strategy in the end, it was crazy," Dixon reflected. "There was no way we were going to catch (Castroneves). He was half the track ahead of us. I knew our car was probably quicker than his, but not 20 miles per hour faster. It was nice to get it the way we did."