LAST LAP HEARTBREAK FOR TARGET TEAM IN CHICAGO FINALE Joliet, Illinois (September 9, 2007)-- Scott Dixon led the last lap of the 2007 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway but Target Chip Ganassi Racing's IndyCar Series Championship hopes ran...
LAST LAP HEARTBREAK FOR TARGET TEAM IN CHICAGO FINALE
Joliet, Illinois (September 9, 2007)-- Scott Dixon led the last lap of the 2007 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway but Target Chip Ganassi Racing's IndyCar Series Championship hopes ran dry just a few hundred feet from the checkered flag as the no.9 Target car ran out of fuel as it headed for Turn 4 and watched rival Dario Franchitti make the pass for the race win and Championship title.
Heading into the race weekend, just three points had separated Dixon from the points leader but it all came down to a lap splash of fuel to top off on lap 148 for both drivers, and whomever could make it to the finish line on 22 gallons of fuel would take the honours. To add to the drama, with Dixon leading Franchitti, a final caution came out on lap 195 as Danica Patrick spun coming into the pits, enabling both drivers to save a little more fuel.
The green flag came back out for three final nail-biting laps with Dixon and Franchitti neck and neck, but the no.9 Target Car fell just short of the needed fuel mileage, allowing Franchitti to coast past to earn his first career championship. Dixon led five times for a total of 41 laps, finishing the race in second place, his sixth runner-up finish of the year including the Indianapolis 500 won by Franchitti. It was also Dixon's 13th top-five finish of the season.
Dan Wheldon, who led three laps, did his best to help his Target teammate battle up front for most of the race but saw his day end on lap 193 with a gear box issue.
While the Target team's season highlights included three pole positions and six race wins, the team's best season total since 1999, the battle for the IndyCar Series title came down to the final race for a second straight year.
The Target team and Dixon, who never fell out of contention all season long, finishes the 2007 IndyCar season second in the points standings with 624 points, and fourth with Wheldon's 466 points. Dario Franchitti wins the title with 637 points while his AGR teammate Tony Kanaan finishes third in the standings (576 points) and Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. (465 points) rounds out the top five in the Championship.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing Quoteboard:
SCOTT DIXON: "Nobody seemed to want to lead. I think the Penske guys had it right with coming in earlier and topping off and leaving us out there to try to fend for ourselves. I'd been working with those guys all day, and they were a big help, Sam (Hornish Jr.) and Helio (Castroneves). But it just seemed like the 27 car was getting a lot better fuel mileage all day. We were on even par with that last stop, coming in together and topping off, but they just seemed to be back in the pack saving fuel, and we didn't have enough. But I pretty much knew going back to the restart that it was going to be a slim chance. We of course wanted yellows, that was going to make it a lot easier. I tried to get Dan (Wheldon) to lead and then I think he had a problem out there. And then I tried to get the Penske guys to lead, but nobody seemed to want to, and it was quite obvious the reason why. Of course I'm disappointed. It was a great season for the Target team but for it to come down to the last lap of the last race on fuel mileage is hard to take. The real winners were the fans I guess. It was a battle all year with Dario (Franchitti) and he is a deserving Champion."
DAN WHELDON: "It was obviously a completely different race for me because I was actually driving for Scott (Dixon). We were both running really good and our Target cars were very competitive. I was just making sure I sat behind him certainly until the end of the race but unfortunately at the end of the race I had some gear box issues and lost drive. It's so unfortunate for the Target team to come so close to a championship two years in a row. It's a bitterly disappointing way to end the season for everyone but there's something to be said about the fight we put up for it."