In a 250-lap sprint at Iowa Speedway, Scott Dixon went from 11 points arrears of leader Dario Franchitti to three points clear of his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate in the A.J. Foyt Oval Championship standings.
Through four oval races on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule, Dixon has 151 points after finishing sixth in the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer on June 20. Franchitti, the reigning series champion, led a field-high 69 laps and was looking to pad his points lead. But a gearbox issue with 50 laps remaining left the Indianapolis 500 champion in 18th place.
"We had a winning car, but it wasn't anybody's fault," he said. "The Target team did a great job. These things just happen."
But, he added: "We can't afford to be giving points away."
He knows that all too well. For the past four seasons, the overall championship has been decided in the final race. Franchitti has been involved in two (winning in 2007 and '09; both times outpacing Dixon).
Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, the third man in the overall championship chase last year, is third in the A.J. Foyt Oval Championship standings with 137 points. Tony Kanaan, who won at Iowa Speedway in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car for Andretti Autosport, is fourth with 135 points. Team Penske's Helio Castroneves is fifth (121), while teammate Will Power - the overall points leader by 11 over Dixon - is eighth (102).
Franchitti is third (260) in the overall championship, Castroneves (251) is fourth and Briscoe (240) fifth.
"I know I'm 23 points behind so it makes the championship a little bit tight," said Castroneves, who was runner-up to Kanaan at Iowa. "That's what we're looking for."
The initial four oval races were run on a diverse lineup (2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile high-banked Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway, .875-mile Iowa Speedway). The three-pack of ovals (the season finale Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway doesn't count in the standings) will be on 1.5-mile tracks, but each has characteristics that create challenges for drivers and engineers alike.
Next on the schedule are five road/street/airport circuits, beginning with the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on July 4. Dixon is a three-time winner on the 3.4-mile natural-terrain course. Power is the points leader through four of the nine races to determine the road course champion. The Indy car legend who will be honored with that award will be announced during The Glen weekend.