IRL: Chicagoland Speedway qualifying summary

All Four IRL IndyCar Series Championship Contenders to Start up Front for the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 Presented by Mr. Clean JOLIET, Ill. (Sept. 9, 2006) - Winner take all is the most likely scenario for Sunday's PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 ...

All Four IRL IndyCar Series Championship Contenders to Start up Front for the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 Presented by Mr. Clean

JOLIET, Ill. (Sept. 9, 2006) - Winner take all is the most likely scenario for Sunday's PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean at Chicagoland Speedway.

And if polesitter and race favorite Sam Hornish Jr. has his way, he'll take all.

A season-long four-way points battle for the IRL IndyCar Series championship between Hornish, his Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, and Target Chip Ganassi duo Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon will finally be decided during the series finale at the 1.5-mile speedway. The drivers have jockeyed in points between first and fourth all season long.

The championship contenders will all start up front. Hornish will lead the way followed by Dixon, Wheldon and Castroneves.

If Hornish wins the race, he'll win the title. If points-leader Castroneves wins the race, he'll win the title.

If either Wheldon and Dixon win on Sunday, they must also rely on the Penske drivers experiencing a little bad luck to win the title.

"Obviously, there's a championship at stake," said Wheldon. "I think the Penske cars are performing very well. It seems that the four of us have a distinct advantage over the rest of the field. It's going to make it very difficult to win the championship. At the same time, we don't have any pressure.

"I mean, to be quite frank and honest, I really don't care if I come fourth, third, second in the championship, added Wheldon. "It means nothing to me. We've got to try and win. Scott and I have been told by Chip (Ganassi) that we have to do everything by all accounts to try and win the race and lead the most laps, try and get a Ganassi car to win the championship. That's what we're going to do. We're going to do it in a very respectful way, but we'll be very firm, and then just I guess what's meant to be will be."

Castroneves leads Hornish by one point heading into the season-ending race, with Wheldon trailing by 19 and Dixon by 21. Hornish is a two-time series champion, in 2001 and 2002; Dixon and Wheldon won the series championships in '03 and '05, respectively.

"Wow, I'm sure it's going to be hard to sleep tonight, no question about it," Castroneves said. "It's fun. I'm very happy to be in this situation. It's been a lot of years that I've been competing, been very close, knocking at the door. Unfortunately, always something happens."

Hornish is arguably the favorite - for the race and the title. He is the undisputed King of the Mile-and-a-Half Tracks with wins at Kansas and Kentucky, both 1.5-mile racetracks similarly configured to Chicagoland, this season alone. He's won 10 such races in all.

But his stats at Chicagoland are impressive. Hornish has won here twice in his career, and the last time he started from the pole at Chicagoland, he went on to win the race (2002). He went on to win the championship that same year.

"We've got a great opportunity to start up front at tomorrow's race," Hornish said. "Obviously in these kind of races, it doesn't really matter where you start. It's always nice to start on the pole if you can.

"(I'm just looking forward to tomorrow's race. I'm up here with three guys that I've been battling with all season long. I know that it's going to go right down to the end of the race. Hopefully we'll all have a good, safe race tomorrow and one of us I'm sure is going to be celebrating, that's for sure."

-credit: chicagoland speedway

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske