Series news and notes 2009-09-21

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Stage set for "Winner-Take-All" race in South Florida 2. Rearview mirror: Classic IndyCar Series championship races 3. Fans can vote for Firestone Tire-ific Move of the...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Stage set for "Winner-Take-All" race in South Florida
2. Rearview mirror: Classic IndyCar Series championship races
3. Fans can vote for Firestone Tire-ific Move of the Race

1. Stage set for "Winner-Take-All" race in South Florida: Last month, when the IndyCar Series transitioned from the road/street course to the oval portion of the schedule, reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon predicted that the driver title would be decided in the season finale.

"It's what we expect for IndyCar," he said. "It's going to come down to the final lap, the final corner of Miami."

For the fourth consecutive year, it will be a shootout for the championship. Dixon enters the Firestone Indy 300 on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 570 points. Teammate Dario Franchitti is second with 565, and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe has 562.

"I guess we don't need a 'Chase (for the championship),''' Franchitti said.

It's a winner-take-all scenario for Dixon and Franchitti - as it was in 2007, when Franchitti prevailed when Dixon ran out of fuel on the final lap at Chicagoland Speedway. There are a few additional criteria for Briscoe to claim his first title based on bonus points (one for earning the PEAK Performance Pole Award and two for leading the most laps in the Firestone Indy 300).

* If Briscoe wins the pole and the race, he wins the championship.

* If Briscoe wins the race and leads the most laps, he wins the championship.

* If Briscoe wins the race, earns the pole and leads the most laps, he wins the championship.

* If Briscoe wins the race but doesn't score any bonus points, Dixon can win the title if he finishes second and leads the most laps.

* Dixon will win any tiebreaker over Briscoe.

Eight points between first and third is the second-closest margin in IndyCar Series history with one race remaining, and the five points between first and second is the fourth-closest.

"It's going to be a hell of a show at Homestead," Franchitti added.

* Dixon has two victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway (from the pole in 2008 and coming from the 12th starting position in 2003 - both years he won the series title), and two other top-five finishes in six races at the 1.5-mile oval.

* Franchitti has a high finish of fourth (2006) and a pair of seventh-place finishes in five visits to South Florida.

* Briscoe started third in the 2008 opener (his first race with Team Penske), but was involved in a Lap 127 accident and finished 19th. He finished 22nd in his only other start (2005 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing).

Dixon vaulted to the top of the standings with a victory in the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi last weekend while Briscoe's miscue exiting pit lane - in which the left-front suspension of the No. 6 car incurred damage from brushing the inside retaining wall and running over a timing line cone -- cost him position (finishing 18th) and points (the results marking a 41-point swing). Franchitti finished second for his 12th top five in 16 races.

"The good thing is that it's only eight points to Scott," said Briscoe, whose run of top-five finishes that included two victories ended at seven. "I feel real good going into Homestead. We've been strong on all the (1.5-mile ovals) this year (but) it's going to be a tough one.

"I think it's a flip of a coin really who is the favorite going there between myself, Scott or Dario. I think all of us are fully capable of winning at that track. We're just going to have to be on our game, make everything absolutely perfect, be strong."

Not by design, but the contenders will put in a day of testing on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval Sept. 25.

"It's going to be a crazy race," Dixon said. "Obviously, the three of us are going to be pushing to the maximum."

2. Rearview mirror: Classic IndyCar Series championship races: Just eight points separate IndyCar Series championship leaders Scott Dixon (570 points), Dario Franchitti (565) and Ryan Briscoe (562) entering the season-ending Firestone Indy 300 on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It will be the 10th time in 14 IndyCar Series seasons that the title will be decided at the final race. This is the first of a six-part series looking back at some of the classic championship races in IndyCar Series history. Today: 1996-97: Stewart vs. Hamilton

When:

1996-97

Who:

Tony Stewart, Davey Hamilton

Where:

New Hampshire International Speedway (Aug. 17, 1997), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 11, 1997)

The story:

Tony Stewart led fellow American Davey Hamilton by seven points, 233-226, in the standings entering the second-to-last race of the season, at New Hampshire. Hamilton suffered engine failure in his AJ Foyt Power Team Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear on Lap 121 of the 200-lap race, finishing 17th. But Stewart couldn't capitalize after also having engine problems on Lap 174, finishing 14th in his Glidden/Menards Special G Force/Aurora/Firestone. He carried a 10-point lead, 254-244, over Hamilton into the season finale at Las Vegas.

At Las Vegas, Hamilton qualified a season-best second, Stewart third. Both drivers encountered problems during the event, neither finishing on the lead lap. Hamilton managed a seventh-place finish, one lap down. But it wasn't enough as Stewart finished 11th, four laps down, to clinch the series title by six points, 278-272, over Hamilton.

What They Say Now:

Tony Stewart: "I know the last race at Las Vegas when we won the championship, there was actually a point in the race where I hit the wall. I very lightly hit it, but those are cars that you don't normally graze the wall and don't have damage or significant damage. For Davey and I, we had both been competitive and on our game all year. For some reason, when we both ran Vegas that night - I don't know if the nerves got the best of us or what - but we both had an off night. Neither one of us were a contender to win the race, but it was a matter of who could just battle through the problems to win that night. It was one of those championships that didn't come easy. At that time, it was the pinnacle of my career. To be an Indiana kid and have the chance to race at Indy and not only to have that opportunity but to have the chance to race for an IndyCar championship. Man, it was just an unbelievable moment. And of all things and all people, to get to race against a good friend of mine, Davey Hamilton, for that championship made it that much more special. To go from Midgets and Sprint cars to all of a sudden racing in the IRL and having a shot at the championship there, it was just a dream to have that opportunity."

Davey Hamilton: "In '97 when I was against Stewart, we blew an engine in New Hampshire. That was tough for me because I knew right then I was going to lose it (championship). It wasn't going to happen. But then a few laps later, Tony had some problems, too, and he went out. So it was game back on again. It was cool. I remember fighting right down to the end at Vegas. Both of us had problems at that particular race. Neither of us finished well. We both had a terrible day. It came down to him beating me fairly. But he got it done. I'm from Idaho and a short-track guy, and being in that position was pretty cool. I had a lot of confidence going into that race (Las Vegas). I really thought we could get the job done. You know what? It's this deal where you tell yourself we got here for a reason, we got here racing the way we race. But I'll be honest, it's hard to not race just that one guy. We tried not to change anything, and I tried not to change the way I was doing anything. But at the end of the day, any time that I saw Tony or was around Tony, I always kept track of where he was. You can't help that. I'll guarantee you the guys right now, Dario, Briscoe and Dixon, they're doing the same thing. They're paying attention to the race, but they're definitely paying attention to where each other are running during the race, for sure."

3. Fans can vote for Firestone Tire-ific Move of the Race: The $10,000 prize is awarded after each IndyCar Series race to the driver who best utilizes his or her Firestone tires to make a bold, dramatic move during the event. This week's nominees are Scott Dixon for beating Dario Franchitti out of the pits for the lead on Lap 161, Mario Moraes for overcoming an early setback to score his third consecutive top five and Oriol Servia for a hard-fought fourth place. Fans can vote at www.indycar.com.

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season concludes Oct. 10 with the Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4 p.m. (ET) Oct. 10 by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. A one-hour qualifying show will air on VERSUS at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 9. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season concludes with the Homestead-Miami 100 on Oct. 9 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast live by VERSUS at 6 p.m. (ET).

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Tony Stewart , Davey Hamilton , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Mario Moraes
Teams Team Penske