IRL: Chicagoland: Series race report, champion crowned

FRANCHITTI WINS PEAK ANTIFREEZE INDY 300, INDYCAR SERIES CROWN JOLIET, Ill, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2007 -- Dario Franchitti overtook Scott Dixon in Turn 3 on the final lap when Dixon ran out of fuel and went on earn the victory and his first career ...

FRANCHITTI WINS PEAK ANTIFREEZE INDY 300, INDYCAR SERIES CROWN

JOLIET, Ill, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2007 -- Dario Franchitti overtook Scott Dixon in Turn 3 on the final lap when Dixon ran out of fuel and went on earn the victory and his first career IndyCar Series championship.

Dixon led Franchitti by half a car-length as they crossed the start/finish line for the white flag. But as they ran side-by-side along the backstretch, Dixon's car gasped for fuel.

Franchitti, who led Dixon by three points entering the 200-lap race, won the championship by 13 points. Had Dixon, who led 41 laps, prevailed, he would have won by seven points.

Sam Hornish Jr. finished third and Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves was fourth. Scott Sharp closed fast for fifth place.

Franchitti is the third consecutive Indianapolis 500 winner who also wound up as series champion. He delivered the third series title for Andretti Green Racing, a series record. It is the seventh time that the title points margin has been 20 points or less.

Also on Sept. 9, rookie Logan Gomez held off a final-lap charge from Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd to win his first Indy Pro Series race by 0.0005 of a second.

The time and winner's 188.627 mph closing lap on the 1.52-mile oval equates to a margin of victory of 1.65 inches. The difference was the closest in the six years of the series -- and in Indy Racing League history.

***

Julianne Hough, who will partner with two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves on the upcoming season of "Dancing With The Stars" is at Chicagoland Speedway today to watch Castroneves race. Hough rode in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater and the Honda Accord Hybrid Pace Car. Castroneves drove the pace car ride.

JULIANNE HOUGH ("Dancing With The Stars" Competitor): "The two-seater ride beats it all. The two-seater was just incredible. I've never felt so fast in my life. As we were speeding up, the G-Forces were just incredible. I felt them a little in the pace car (with Helio). I'm such a daredevil that I like everything fast. I'd love to do the two-seater again." (How is experiencing Helio Castroneves' world): "The great thing about this show is that I've got to experience new things. Last year, I got to experience Apolo (Anton Ohno's) world. I've never been much of a speedskating fan and now I'm a big speedskating fan. It's the same thing with Helio. I've never watched IndyCar (Series) racing but now that he's my partner, I've been to a few races and experienced a whole new world in front of me. I love it now. I think I'll watch a whole lot more races in the future. I'm a fan."

***

C.J. Shoemaker has attended the past three Indianapolis 500-Mile Races.

"Where were you in '04?" Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Buddy Rice quizzed the Michigan resident in the garage area of Chicagoland Speedway.

"I did see you win in Michigan in '04," Shoemaker replied.

Shoemaker and his fiancee, Kelsey West, met the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner before seeing the INDY DownForce logo wrapped by CJ on the engine cowling of Rice's No. 15 Honda-powered Dallara. He was the winner of an INDY DownForce "Your Name Here" contest for members of the official fan club of the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series for the season finale.

"I love INDY DownForce," said Shoemaker, carrying an autograph Rice hero card on his garage tour. "I mean fantasy racing, the prizes, you can redeem points to go to races. It's great."

INDY DownForce offers a wide range of interactive and participatory activities for subscribers, including a fantasy racing league and pre-race events as Shoemaker noted.

***

Ticket-holders for the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean had an opportunity to have their picture taken with the IndyCar Series Cup after signing the Illinois Department of Transportation pledge to Buckle Up, Every Trip, Every Time.

Buckle Up America is a campaign encouraging proper safety belt and child safety seat use in the United States, coordinated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

***

Panther Racing's Paul Sheehan (IndyCar Series) and Mitch Fink (Indy Pro Series) were voted Indy Racing League truck drivers of the year.

PEAK ANTIFREEZE INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is Dario Franchitti's fourth win of the season and the eighth of his IndyCar Series career. His last win came at Richmond in June.

* This is Andretti Green Racing's 32nd win in the IndyCar Series, the most by any entrant in the IndyCar Series.

* Scott Dixon finished second. His 13th top-five finish of the season.

* Hideki Mutoh finished eighth in his IndyCar Series debut.

INDYCAR SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES:

* This is Dario Franchitti's first IndyCar Series championship.

* Dario Franchitti become the third consecutive Indianapolis 500 winner to go on to win the IndyCar Series championship in the same season.

* The 637 points Franchitti scored is the most points by a series champion. The previous high was 628 by Dan Wheldon in the 17 race 2005 season

* This is the third IndyCar Series championship for Andretti Green Racing. The team won the title in 2004 with Tony Kanaan and in 2005 with Dan Wheldon.

* Andretti Green Racing becomes the first team to win three IndyCar Series championships. Team Menard, AJ Foyt Racing, and Panther Racing have won two championships.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300/2007 IndyCar Series champion): "Most of the race I couldn't do anything. I couldn't pass the guys in front because they were running side by side. There were times the car wasn't handling so well, and then in that last bit it was handling well, but I couldn't do anything. And then people started pitting, Dan (Wheldon) ran out of fuel and it was just Scott (Dixon) and I. We came down that backstretch and I was drafting him trying to get a slingshot. Just as I pulled out I saw him slow down and I almost hit the back of him as I was just going out. It was some good fuel saving and some great strategy from my boys on the Canadian Club Team and the whole Andretti Green Team. They are the best team in the world."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second): "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."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "I'm very disappointed we didn't get the win today, I was hoping for number 20. We definitely had the fastest car, and it's just unfortunate things ended up the way they did. I'm not sure how the leaders were able to save so much fuel, but it is what it is. Helio (Castroneves) and I had the cars to beat out there and it's just a shame Team Penske didn't get the win and end the season on a high note."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "The Team Penske cars were incredible out there. When the No. 4 car (Vitor Meira) hit the wall, there was a lot of confusion during the caution period about who would get waved around and whether the pits were open or closed. It's unfortunate that the race officials made the call that left only two cars on the lead lap. If it wasn't for this, I'm confident that either Sam or I would have come away with the win. Regardless of the outcome, I can't say enough about the crew. We definitely ended the season on a high note. The car was awesome and the pit stops were flawless. I guess we'll have to wait until next year and hope we can carry this momentum into the first race of the season."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Patron/Sharp Rahal Letterman Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): "It was a really good day for the Patron Rahal Letterman Racing team. The car was very well balanced in traffic and that's what you need at this place. The guys gave me great pit stops all day, the car was good in the draft and the guys on the radio did a nice job getting me through some tough spots. The last set of tires were perfect and really helped us stay up front. We have a little more work to do but this was a great way to end the year and was a great building year for myself and Patron in our first year with the team."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished sixth): "It was a frustrating day for us. We went a lap down right away because of a (tire) puncture and we never recovered. We had a fast car, and the key was to never give up. We came here with one goal, win a championship. I told you guys from the beginning that (Dario Franchitti) had a better chance than I did. This proves that when it's your day. It's your day. So I want to run and give him (Dario) a big hug right now."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished seventh): "Seventh is a solid result for us to end the season on. It was a wild day out there and I think we got the best possible result we could for what we went through today. This makes up for some of the tough breaks we've gotten in the last couple of races." (About clinching Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year): "We accomplished more in six races than I ever thought would be possible when I joined the team. This is a great team, with a bright future. I see the Rookie-of-the-Year award as not so much a great honor for me, but more as a symbol of what we accomplished as a team this season."

A.J. FOYT IV: (No. 22 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 10th): "I just have to thank my guys. We didn't have a very good day on Saturday, but they gave me a good car today and we just put together a solid run to finish 10th. I would have liked to have finished higher, but I'm happy we got a top-10 to finish the season."

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Logan Gomez , Hideki Mutoh , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing