Dixon not ready to give up after narrow defeat
Give Scott Dixon an extra tenth-of-second or so at Chicagoland Speedway and the IndyCar Series championship race would have a different complexion.
Dixon was runner-up by 0.0077 of a second (the fourth-closest finish in series history) to Ryan Briscoe in the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 on Aug. 29 at the 1.5-mile oval. It was Briscoe's third victory of the season, and combined with the one bonus point for the pole and two for most laps led (71) increased his championship advantage to 25.
Dario Franchitti, who finished fourth in the 200-lap race, is second in the standings with two races remaining. The narrow loss resulted in a 10-point swing for Dixon, whose second place for the fourth consecutive year left him 33 points back. During the past two season, Dixon had been the points leader after 15 of 17 races.
Dixon was also been among the title contenders in 2006-08, when Chicagoland Speedway hosted the IndyCar Series' finale. Each year he finished second -- by a grand total of 2.0369 seconds. That worked for Dixon in 2008, when he claimed the championship by 13 points over race winner Helio Castroneves. A year earlier, he needed to beat Franchitti in the winner-take-all race. That bid fell short when he ran out of fuel on the final turn of the final lap. In '06, despite the strong performance, Dixon needed other contenders to finish lower in the order to secure the championship. He fell 15 points short.
"I've seen this movie before several times, so it's frustrating," said Dixon, who was among the six drivers to swap the lead 18 times. "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 if it came down to that shootout I think we definitely knew we were going to lose. It's getting pretty old, so hopefully we can turn it around at some point."
Twin Ring Motegi is up next, where Dixon has posted third- and fourth-place finishes the past two years. Briscoe was ninth in '08 among his two races, while Franchitti advanced four spots to third in his last trip (2007) on the 1.5-mile oval.
"Obviously we're still in the fight for the championship, but Ryan did another good job (at Chicagoland) and we're going to have to make something happen these next two races," said Franchitti.
The 25-point differential is the fourth-closest in IndyCar Series history with two races remaining, as is the 33 points between Briscoe and Dixon. Castroneves was eliminated from title contention at Chicagoland.
"We've seen how quickly (the championship lead) can turn around," said Briscoe, noting that there has been a different leader after 13 of the 15 events. "I just have to stay focused and try to beat these guys. Japan and Homestead, they're going to be tough races. I sort of got myself into a little bit of trouble (falling to mid-pack midway through the Chicagoland race after an extended service stop), 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."