IRL: Chicagoland: Chip Ganassi Racing preview

Target Team Advance Notes & Quotes Coming Up this Weekend-- Target Chip Ganassi Racing gets set for the 2006 IndyCar season finale this weekend at the Peak Antifreeze presented by Mr. Clean Indy 300 on the 1.5 mile oval of Chicagoland Speedway...

Target Team Advance Notes & Quotes

Coming Up this Weekend-- Target Chip Ganassi Racing gets set for the 2006 IndyCar season finale this weekend at the Peak Antifreeze presented by Mr. Clean Indy 300 on the 1.5 mile oval of Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. With both a win and the IndyCar series Championship on the line, both Target Honda Powered Dallaras are ready to battle for 300 miles (200 laps) of wheel to wheel action. This will be the final race of 14 on the 2006 IndyCar schedule.

The Final Race-- Only one race remains and it will come down to the wire. Helio Castroneves (441) has a one-point lead over Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. Defending IndyCar Series champion Wheldon (422) is within 19 points of the leader, while his Target teammate, Dixon (420), is also still in contention just 21 points behind in the Championship standings.

#9 Scott Dixon Notes & Quotes--

4th in the Championship 21 points behind the leader

This will be Dixon's fourth start at Chicagoland

With just one race remaining, Dixon lies fourth in the season point standings just 21 points behind Helio Castroneves. The 26-year-old New Zealander is the only driver to finish every race this season.

"Straight out of the box we had good speed. I expected to be back at the top, once we had the right equipment," Dixon said. "Throughout every race weekend, one of the (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) cars could have won the race, but I don't think we finished where we should have a few times. I guess it's good to be disappointed with finishing second, because the last few years, second was like a win."

From the opening test of the season, the Target drivers have shown they would be a force to be reckoned with. Dixon or Wheldon paced Open Tests at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway, and Dixon posted top-10 finishes in every event through Texas. Included in that stretch was a repeat win at Watkins Glen International.

"Watkins is an easy one to pick out because it was back-to-back (wins)," Dixon said. "The conditions that day were pretty crazy. In qualifying, I didn't get what I wanted out of it. We went from provisional pole to fourth in the top-six shootout, but I love that circuit, and I love all the road courses we go to."

Dixon also captured a win at Nashville Superspeedway, firmly entrenching himself as a title contender.

"It was a great race, especially with the guitar you get there," Dixon said. "It's pretty special, and there's not another trophy that you get that's like it."

Still with the success that he's had this season, Dixon feels like he could be in control of the title race if things had fallen right.

"There are two or three races that pop up in my head that I think we could have won, and I think there are three or four races that Dan (Wheldon) thinks he could have won," he said. "The Indy 500 was a race we were looking forward to capturing. Dan had a fast car and mine was pretty decent. I still don't understand how we didn't come away with that one."

And as the series heads to Chicagoland Speedway for the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300, Dixon is happy with a return to the front and sees himself in perfect position to capture a second series title.

"The situation that I see at the moment is Dan and myself have no pressure," he said. "The two Penske cars have to make sure they finish. We've got to try to win the last race, but if we don't, we tried our best. They need to be very careful.

"In 2003, when I won, two of the contenders took themselves out by hitting each other and falling back. I don't think it will be any different this year. There's no doubt this championship will come down to a few inches and right down to the wire."

#10 Dan Wheldon Notes & Quotes--

3rd in the Championship 19 points behind the leader

Wheldon is the defending winner of the Chicagoland race

Dan Wheldon's defense of his 2005 IndyCar Series title hasn't gone quite the way he had planned, but he still finds himself with a shot at remaining the champion.

Following his record-breaking championship season, Wheldon, in search of a new challenge, made an off-season switch from Andretti Green Racing to Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Expectations were high as the team changed to the Honda-powered Dallara for the oval races and the team quickly gelled in preseason testing.

"You can utilize my experience and that of Andy Brown, my engineer, but at the end of the day, you have remember you're up against those guys who've raced a number of years with that package," Wheldon said of the lofty goals.

Wheldon won his debut with the team at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but the rest of the year has been filled with disappointment. A punctured tire at Indianapolis, botched pit stops at Texas and Kentucky have robbed Wheldon of potential wins.

"Anytime you can win your first race with a new team in such a competitive championship is a great achievement," Wheldon said. "I would have to say that is my highlight. Ultimately, would I want that to be my highlight of the season? Not really. It's just a race win.

"For me, personally, I was desperate to win the Indy 500 again. I was quietly confident that we were capable of doing that. I think everyone should be commended for the performance we had there. Everybody was talking about (Sam) Hornish (Jr.), and I respect Roger Penske and Sam immensely. They were very quick the whole month. For us, we were very quick, but it was one of those situations that cost us that victory."

Still, Wheldon looks back at a season, with eight top-five finishes and 11 top-10's and realizes that it's just the start of what could be a great partnership with Target Chip Ganassi Racing

"It's always very hard when you have a very successful season to go into the following year and expect to do the same when you're up against very stiff competition," Wheldon said. "At the same time, when you consider how fast our race cars have been, do I think I could have won six races? If things had panned out different. Perhaps. Obviously, Chip brought me into the team to win. I've only won one race. I hope to deliver more than that.

"I definitely believe somebody upstairs is giving me a shot at the championship. When you consider what's happened to me and you consider the points between the teams we're racing and the points we've thrown away. We're still very close. If it's meant to be. It's meant to be."

-credit: cgr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Roger Penske , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing