Chicagoland: Series race report

DIXON CLAIMS INDYCAR SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP AS CASTRONEVES WINS PHOTO FINISH JOLIET, Ill., Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008 - Helio Castroneves raced from the 28th starting position to first, winning a photo finish in the PEAK Antifreeze &...

DIXON CLAIMS INDYCAR SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP AS CASTRONEVES WINS PHOTO FINISH

JOLIET, Ill., Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008 - Helio Castroneves raced from the 28th starting position to first, winning a photo finish in the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, but it wasn't enough to keep Scott Dixon from winning his second IndyCar Series championship.

Castroneves started 28th due to a penalty during qualifying and raced his way through the field to take the lead on Lap 78. He led 80 laps total and was in first as the leaders pitted on Lap 185 with 15 laps to go. Series points leader Scott Dixon won the race off pit lane and led the next 14 laps as Castroneves pulled alongside for the final two. As the two took the checkered flag side-by-side, it took a review of photographs by IndyCar Series officials to determine that Castroneves had edged Dixon by .0033 of a second, the second-closest finish in IndyCar Series history.

The IndyCar Series Timing & Scoring photo system takes a picture every ten-thousandth of a second.

Castroneves celebrated his second victory of the season and the second time he's finished runner-up in the championship in his career.

Dixon maintained a 17-point lead in the championship to become the second driver to win multiple championships in the IndyCar Series. Dixon also won in 2003.

Pole sitter Ryan Briscoe finished third.

Hideki Mutoh won Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year honors by six points over Justin Wilson despite finishing 22nd.

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IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira could be making his final start with Panther Racing following the announcement this week that Dan Wheldon has been signed to drive the No. 4 car for the team in 2009.

VITOR MEIRA: "I feel like it's important for the fans to know what I think about everything that has happened this last week. I didn't want to leave Panther and the No. 4 car because I know how good this team is going to be next year. I feel like I'm a big part of the foundation of this team in the new generation of the IndyCar Series. I'm sad to leave, and I don't agree with all the decisions that have been made, but that doesn't change the way I feel about Panther Racing, and I'll always have a lot of respect for them. I feel like I'm personal friends with every member of this team. That will never change. I'm also happy to have had the experience with all the sponsors who have supported me, especially Delphi for the two years of support and trust. The National Guard, as an institution, and the s oldiers as individuals, changed me personally and the way I look at everything. One of the key words in the National Guard is 'honor', and I'm honored to get to know every member of the National Guard and I always will be, even if I don't drive their car in the future. I will always know, no matter what, that wherever I am the Guardsmen are Always Ready and Always There. I look forward to continuing my career in the IndyCar Series, and will share any updates as they come available."

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-RACE NOTES:

* Scott Dixon wins his second IndyCar Series championship by 17 points over Helio Castroneves.

* Dixon is the second driver to win multiple championships. Sam Hornish Jr. won three.

* More details on Dixon's season are listed below.

* Helio Castroneves is the first driver to win a race from the 28th starting position. Buddy Lazier won from 26th at Phoenix in 2000.

* More details on Castroneves' season are listed below.

* The margin of victory is the second-closest in IndyCar Series history. The closest finish is .0024 of a second at Chicagoland in 2002 when Sam Hornish Jr. defeated Al Unser Jr. The 10 closest finishes are listed below.

* Hideki Mutoh wins the Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year honors with a six-point advantage over Justin Wilson.

* Ryan Briscoe finished third, his fifth top-five finish of the season.

* Tony Kanaan finished fourth, his 11th top-five finish of the season.

* Will Power finished fifth, his best finish of the season on an oval.

* Darren Manning finished seventh, his seventh top-10 finish of the season.

* Milka Duno led five laps, her first laps led in the IndyCar Series.

***

NOTES ON SCOTT DIXON:

Scott Dixon held first place in the standings in 2008 for all but three races. After winning the season opener at Homestead-Miami, Dixon fell to second with a 22nd-place finish at St. Petersburg. He rebounded to first with his win at Indianapolis.

Dixon averaged 38.0 points per race, just shy of the 40 points awarded for finishing second.

Since the start of the 2006 season, Dixon has 42 top-10 finishes in 48 races. In those 48 races, Dixon has 12 victories, 36 top-five finishes and has led 1,405 laps.

Beginning with the race at Richmond in June 2007, Dixon has 21 top-five finishes in 26 races. In those 26 races, Dixon has 10 victories, 23 top-10 finishes and has led 1,089 laps.

Dixon is the second driver to win multiple IndyCar Series championships. He also won in 2003.

This marks the fourth consecutive season that the winner of the Indianapolis 500 has gone on to win the series championship, tying a record set from 1967-1970.

Dixon in the Record Book

Career wins: Moved from fifth to second with 16 wins. (Hornish Jr. 19)

Wins in a season: Tied Dan Wheldon's record of 6 set in 2005.

Seasons with a win: Tied for fifth with five seasons with a win.

Wins from pole in a season: Set new record with four.

Career poles: Moved from fifth to second with 14 poles. (Castroneves 26)

Career laps led: Moved from eighth to fifth with 2,181. (Hornish Jr. 3,428)

Laps led in a season: Set new record with 899.

Top-five starts in a season: Set new record with 15.

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NOTES ON HELIO CASTRONEVES:

Helio Castroneves turned in one of the most consistent seasons in IndyCar Series history, recording a record-tying 15 top-five finishes, including a record-setting eight second-place finishes.

Castroneves led all drivers with 15 top-five finishes and 17 races running at the finish.

Castroneves held first place in the standings for three weeks before relinquishing the position to Scott Dixon at the Indianapolis 500 in May. After that, Castroneves held second place the final 13 weeks of the season.

Castroneves averaged 37.0 points per race, better than the 35 points awarded for third place.

Castroneves in the Record Book

Seasons with a win: Tied Scott Sharp's record of eight.

Consecutive seasons with a win: Set new record with eight.

Career wins from pole: Set new record with seven.

Consecutive seasons with win from pole: Tied record of three others with three.

Consecutive starts: Moved into second with 112.

Career poles: Extended his record to 26.

Career top-10 finishes: Set new record with 88.

Career top-five finishes: Tied with Tony Kanaan for all-time lead with 66.

Career races led: Set new record with 71.

Career second-place finishes: Set new record with 20.

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-RACE QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, first): (About learning he won the race) "I found out when I was walking to the podium to receive the second-place finish. I actually thought I really won it, but sometimes when you're going 215 mph it's hard for me to see in the blink of an eye. But what a great effort by Team Penske. Ryan (Briscoe) helped me out tremendously. We put ourselves in that situation today. And I'm sure next year is going to be a lot of fun as well, so I can't wait for 2009."

(About coming from last to first) "We tried to keep everything that happened behind and keep racing. I had no doubt that we'd have a good car. It was a big task but, like I said, we believed, we did everything possible. But unfortunately Scott (Dixon) was right there, too. I have to congratulate Team Ganassi, but what a great fi nish, what a wild race. It was kind of a little close, but I'm extremely happy for the way it came out here."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, second): (About the race) "We were trying to work out where we needed to be, and I think I got a little complacent in the middle there. Some of those guys are so quick, some people we didn't expect to be racing with. We got shuffled back in line a little bit, but what a great day. I still can't believe it."

(About whether or not this trumps his championship in 2003) "Yeah, I think it does. We had to go through the cycles. In '03 we really knew what we won, but today was so emotional for the team. Everyone at Team Target worked together to make it happen. My hat's off to them."

(About tough years in his career) "Yeah, it was so tough in those years. I think we tried to forget about them, but I think those years have made the team what it is today. I think those yea rs were tough, but you've got to have those years to make sure that you come back and work hard. I've got to thank Chip (Ganassi) for keeping me around. It was a revolving door there for awhile. I've got to thank my teammate, Dan (Wheldon). He was a great help today."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, third): "It was awesome. It was some really great racing there, going three-wide for a while with (Dan) Wheldon and Helio (Castroneves). It was just a really good day and a good way to end the season. We've had a lot of progress this year, so this was an accomplishment going into 2009. I did my best to help Helio (Castroneves). I thought he might have had it. I was under that rear wing as close as I could get, so hopefully that helped him out."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, fourth): "Today was an exciting one for the fans, and they saw a great race. It was a difficult weekend for me personally, but this was a good result for the Team 7-Eleven crew. Our goal coming into the weekend was to finish third in the championship, and we were able to do that."

WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia, fifth): "I have never had so much fun in a race. The Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia car was good, and the crew did a great job in the pits. We picked up positions on every stop. We had good restarts. Everything was good. This has been a challenging season. The whole team has worked very hard, and I am just so happy to be able to have a good finish, especially on a mile-and-half oval. It really shows the progress the whole KVRT team has made this year."

DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing, seventh): "In the first part of the race, we were just hanging in the draft because they were driving crazy in front of me. I wanted to get a good result and I wanted to finish. It was easier to run with the guys at the front. With 50 laps to go, I really started racing my butt off, and I had some good racing with Anthony [A.J. Foyt IV], who towed me up to the top 10. But it was a good result for the ABC Supply team, and we finished the season with another top-10 finish."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE, eighth): "We were able to take advantage of the cold tires on the restart and gain some positions at the end of the race. Unfortunately this was another character builder for us. We struggled with the car all weekend. To be able to finish in eighth, after the day we had, was a pretty good finish for the NYSE boys."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol, ninth): "We lost a spot in the points on the last lap, and that hurts, but we have a lot of things we can build on for next year. We were up and down the whole day, and it was tough to find the sweet spot with so many different guys running up front. But the guys kept fighting, and we finished in the top 10 for the year, which was a goal coming into the year."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, 10th): "I am really disappointed with my result because the Motorola car was much better than a ninth-place car. We took a gamble on our strategy and got burned by the yellow. We certainly wanted to end the season on a better note."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year): "I wish we were able to finish the 2008 season with a good finish, but I am very thankful to all the Formula Dream team for working so hard and getting No. 27 car back out on the track today. I won the Bombardier Rookie of the Year, but it hasn't hit me yet. I am happy, but it's really hard to celebrate it after such a disappointing race."

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The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with a non-points paying race Oct. 26 at Surfers Paradise, Australia. The Nikon Indy 300 will be telecast live in High Definition at 10:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 25 by ESPN Classic and will re-air at 11 p.m. Oct. 26 on ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season has concluded.

-credit: irl

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