Each of the past three years, Chicagoland Speedway has hosted the deciding race in the IndyCar Series driver championship. The ninth race on the action-packed 1.5-mile oval again will be a factor in determining the 2009 titleholder.
The PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 this weekend is the 15th of 17 events on the schedule, with Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe entering the 200-lap race with a four-point advantage over Dario Franchitti. His Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, is 20 points out of the lead.
It's the 12th time in 14 races that the margin between first and second has been 10 points or fewer, and the difference between first and third is the third-closest with three races remaining.
"The points championship looks like it's going to go down to the wire again, which we've been fortunate to have the championship do that for the last several years," Indy Racing League president of competition and operations Brian Barnhart said. "The contenders all have had issues to contend with early in the season, missed out on opportunities to score some important points. That's clearly something they have to avoid in the final races. You can't have any missteps from here on out; there just isn't any time to make that up."
The top three in points all have had success on the circuit. Dixon has been involved in the past two years that decided the title - 2008 fell in his favor. In '07, pole sitter Franchitti's pass of Dixon in Turn 4 of the final lap gave him the championship in the winner-take-all race.
"I think between the two of us we've got cars in the Target team that can win all those last three races," said Dixon, who has four second-place finishes (including the past three years in a row). "That's the attitude. We have to go out there and try and dominate and hopefully I'll win another championship."
Briscoe was the pole sitter last year and finished third behind Dixon and teammate Helio Castroneves.
"Looking at how this championship's gone so far, no one can hang on to the lead," said Briscoe, who has been the points leader five different times following the 14 races. "I think we're seeing that wins reward greatly, and I think whoever's going to win this championship needs to go out and win races. Obviously you need to finish and collect points. But getting those 50 points is always really important."
A look at Chicagoland Speedway's influence in the IndyCar Series championship: