Justin looks forward to season finale at Chicagoland Speedway
Buoyed by his first IndyCar Series victory last weekend in Detroit, Justin is looking forward to this weekend's season finale, the Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. With the team's base only an hour away, and sponsor McDonald's also located nearby, Justin is keen to end the season on a high note.
"This weekend is a home race for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and McDonald's so it's an important event for us," said Justin. "We tested at Chicagoland a few weeks ago and I think we learned a little bit, so we have our fingers crossed that it will pan out for race weekend as well and we can be closer to the front."
The event will mark the sixth IndyCar Series event on a 1.5-mile oval this season and the fifth for Justin, who competed in the Long Beach Champ Car finale while the ICS regulars were in Japan. Justin's highest finish on a 1.5 mile track was ninth place in Kansas in April where he led five laps. Of the different types of ovals, the team has found the 1.5 mile venues the most challenging.
"It's tough to be quick on the 1.5 mile tracks because you're flat out all the way around and it comes down to experience and development of the car," explained Justin. "We're going to have to keep working on the development of the car and making it more efficient aerodynamically and mechanically to cut through the air faster. I think we'll get there, but it just takes time. We've already caught up a lot compared to the front running teams, but it's tough. We've probably cut the learning curve in half since the beginning of the season, but the last half is probably going to be the toughest to overcome."
The championship battle has come down to the final points paying race of the season at Chicagoland, but on-track battles will not be limited to title contenders Scott Dixon (606 points) and Helio Castroneves (576). Justin's victory in Detroit vaulted him to 11th in the championship standings with 321 and within reach of the Bombardier Rookie of the Year (ROY) award and the $50,000 bonus that goes with it. The three-way battle for the honour includes Hideki Mutoh (334; +13 pts to Justin) who stands in the way of Justin for both ROY and a top-10 season ending rank and 14th place Will Power (301; -20 pts to Justin). Justin is the only driver of the three to have won so far this season and is looking forward to what he believes will be his favourite 1.5-mile oval of the season and the site of a good title fight.
"The track is one of the most enjoyable 1.5 mile ovals that we go to, because the transitions seem much nicer on-and-off the banking and on-and-off the straights," said Justin. "I think that will make it easier and much safer for side-by-side racing. There have been some good races here in the past and I'm sure the one this year will be the same. I think it will be an interesting finale because of the championship. I don't really mind who wins because I like both Scott and Helio. They're both great drivers, but I have to say that Scott has the advantage right now on 1.5-mile ovals. The Ganassi cars have been very quick on those all year and he has a 30-point lead so I definitely think the battle is in his favour. But who knows what could happen? Hopefully it is a good battle and they sort it out between themselves."
The event will get underway with practice and qualifying on Saturday. The 200-lap race will begin at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, September 7 with live TV coverage at 3:30 p.m. EDT on ABC. Live TV coverage in the UK will be on Sky Sports Xtra at 8.30pm BST. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the official website of the IndyCar Series, www.indycar.com. The race will also be broadcast live on IMS Radio Network and XM Radio Channels 144 and 145.