Top Ten for Target Team in Thrilling and Tempestuous Race at Chicagoland Joliet, Illinois- Sunday, September 12th, 2004--Chicagoland Speedway provided exactly what was anticipated for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team and their competitors in...
Top Ten for Target Team in Thrilling and Tempestuous Race at Chicagoland
Joliet, Illinois- Sunday, September 12th, 2004--Chicagoland Speedway provided exactly what was anticipated for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team and their competitors in the IndyCar series; 200 laps of exciting wheel to wheel race action for drivers Scott Dixon and Darren Manning at the Delphi Indy 300.
Dixon, who finished just 0.0009 seconds from victory at this race last year in the closest 1-2-3 photo finish the IndyCar Series had ever seen, believed that despite a fourteenth place starting position that the Target team had put together a car that was good enough to get him among the leaders and battle upfront once again and that's exactly what he did. Dixon worked what was at first a loose handling car in the first stint that did well in traffic, into the top five by the midway point of the race.
Teammate Darren Manning, who started eleventh, also fell back to as far as 20th place early on, but thanks to good Target team strategy and some hard racing, found himself in fourth place with his teammate Scott Dixon not far behind and just 20 laps to go.
A few laps later however, on lap 186, while in the midst of the lead pack, Manning would see Buddy Rice, a challenger in the driver championship, come down suddenly and make contact with his no.10 Target car. The impact pushed Rice's car sideways and flipped it over Manning's Toyota Panoz G Force and slid about 100 yards down the backstretch. Despite the spectacular incident, both drivers emerged unhurt.
"It's difficult to say exactly what happened but I know Buddy had to check down a little because of a car on the outside of him and as he did, my right front tire made contact with his left rear and it certainly was not a very nice experience to have a car flip over you like that, let me tell you," said Manning who was credited with a 15th place finish as a result of the contact, while Rice's championship hopes were quickly diminished. "It's just a shame for both of us. We were all just running in such close proximity all the time and there was a lot of moving about. It's disappointing because the Target Team just worked so hard, Toyota made some good gains this weekend, and we had the car to finish in the top 5 today. I was right there because my team made some good decisions, gave me a great car and put me in position to battle there right to the end but this side by side close racing is what makes this sport so exciting and sometimes you pay the price like we did today."
Following the caution period to pick up debris from the incident, only 7 laps remained and with Scott Dixon in fifth place for the restart, it was a fierce battle to the checkered flag. In the end, fans saw 23 lead changes among 8 drivers throughout the race, and another exciting finish but unfortunately for Dixon, seventh place was not quite what he had hoped for.
"The Target team gave me an excellent car today and we feel we had a top five car but when you have 10 lap shootouts like that, it's going to be anyone's game," said Dixon who worked his way up from as far back as 19th to hold the third place position for 15 laps at various times. "It was probably the easiest day I had driving this year because of how strong the car was. I could put the no.1 Toyota Panoz G Force pretty much anywhere but while I struggled a bit on the restarts, the car was strong through the corners and my crew guys were excellent on all our stops and that helped me pick up some spots. There was a lot going on out there on the track, especially in the middle of the pack and it was probably to closest racing we've had all year. It was a bit chaotic especially when it became a 20 lap shoot out and you just knew something was going to happen but in the end the last ten laps were fair enough and the Target team is happy to have had a good day."
Adrian Fernandez had his second victory in the IndyCar Series since joining the IRL for the race in Phoenix in March. Finishing in second place was Bryan Herta, just 0.0716 of a second behind, for his best finish of the season. Teammate and current points leader Tony Kanaan (538 points) moved closer to his first IndyCar Series championship with a third-place finish, while his closest pursuer, Dan Wheldon (463 points), finished fourth.
With just two races left in the 2004 IndyCar season, Darren Manning is in tenth place in the standings with 311 points, while Target teammate Scott Dixon is close behind in eleventh spot with 303 points.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing will return to race action in three weeks time at the 2 mile D-shaped super speedway in Fontana, California for the Toyota Indy 400, the fifteenth race of the 16-race IndyCar season. Target fans can tune in to watch the California race on ESPN at 3:00 pm (EDT) Sunday, October 3rd or they can listen in on the IMS Radio Network. Throughout the 2004 season, fans are invited to follow the team's progress by logging onto their official website at target.com/racing for news, features, photos and much more.