IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-09-03

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Sept. 3, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Championship Quick Hits -- Chicagoland 2. Road to Chicagoland -- Tony Kanaan 3. Patrick records best-ever finish 1. Championship Quick Hits...


Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Championship Quick Hits -- Chicagoland
2. Road to Chicagoland -- Tony Kanaan
3. Patrick records best-ever finish

1. Championship Quick Hits -- Chicagoland: Heading into the season-ending race of the 2007 IndyCar Series schedule, three drivers are engaged in one of the tightest point races in IndyCar Series' history. Here's a look at the title race:

* Drivers still eligible for championship: 3 (Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon (-3) and Tony Kanaan (-39)

* Key Championship statistic:
    * Tony Kanaan has won twice times on 1.5-mile ovals this season and has four career wins on 1.5 mile ovals. Scott Dixon's only win on a 1.5-mile oval was at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2003. Dario Franchitti has yet to win on a 1.5-mile oval

* Closest 1-2 point differential since: 2006 -- With one race left in the 2007 IndyCar Series season, first and second are separated by just three points -- the third-closest margin in series history. (Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. were separated by one point in 2006 and Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon were tied in 2003).

* Who's hot in the championship:

Tony Kanaan has won three of the last four IndyCar Series events, making the title fight a three-man race heading to the finale.

* Did you know?:

In the last six years, the points leader entering the season-ending race of the IndyCar Series schedule has only failed to win the title twice (Castroneves co-leader 2003 and 2006).

IndyCar Series championship by the numbers:

0 -- Wins by three championship contending drivers at Chicagoland Speedway.

2 -- Former IndyCar Series champions among the three drivers mathematically eligible for the IndyCar Series title. Only Dario Franchitti has not won the IndyCar Series championship.

3 -- Points separating points leader Dario Franchitti from second-place Scott Dixon

4.8 -- Average finish for all three championship-eligible drivers on 1.5-mile ovals this season

5 -- More points earned by Dixon than Franchitti on 1.5 mile ovals

15 -- Bonus points for leading the most laps (three per race) awarded to points leader Franchitti this season. Dixon, second in the championship race by three points, has picked up just six bonus points.

19 -- Points made up by Dan Wheldon in the 2006 season-finale at Chicagoland. (Wheldon, who was third entering the finale, tied second-place Sam Hornish Jr. atop the point standings, but Hornish won the race via tiebreaker).

39 -- Points separating leader Dario Franchitti from third-place Tony Kanaan.

188 -- Points scored by Kanaan on 1.5 mile ovals in 2007 (26 more than Dixon and 31 more than Franchitti)

$1,000,000 - Bonus that Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon or Tony Kanaan will win by winning the championship.


2. Road to Chicagoland -- Tony Kanaan: (This week, we'll examine the season of each of the contenders for the IndyCar Series championship and how they became a title contender. Today, third-place Tony Kanaan.)

Tony Kanaan recently joked that if someone was going to make a 2008 IndyCar Series calendar, he should be Mr. August.

The 2004 IndyCar Series champion has used a late-season surge to put himself in contention to win his second IndyCar Series title. Three wins in the last four events have helped the Brazilian pull within 39 points of his teammate Dario Franchitti with 53 available at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 9

"I was never out of the championship and now I'm right in the hunt," he said. "It's obviously going to be very difficult but I want to win this thing. Now I've told Dario, 'I'm going. Chicago, I'm going.' We'll see what's going to happen."

Kanaan, who has a series-best five wins this season, also has four finishes of 12th or worse -- the result of two accidents at Nashville and Iowa, a spin at Indianapolis and a pit-road incident with teammate Danica Patrick at Kansas.

"Obviously, since Indy, we've been having a lot of ups and downs," Kanaan said. "Everybody's talking about Dario and (Scott) Dixon, and nobody's talking about me."

The 2004 champion acknowledged that his own championship position could have been stronger at this point if he hadn't tried to help Franchitti in recent weeks, but he added that he had no regrets about his actions.

"I do not regret what I did," he said. "Things could have been different, yes, but I could have put myself in a better position before the Sonoma race to be able to win this championship.

"The decision I made last weekend, I think that was the right one. So I do not think about last weekend."


3. Patrick records best-ever finish: Danica Patrick's No. 7 Team Motorola car was involved in two on-track bump-and-run incidents before Lap 50, traveled 33 laps on the 2.070-mile Belle Isle course between pit stops, and led nine laps.

It also gave Patrick a career-best second-place finish -- advancing nine positions -- in the inaugural Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone.

"It was a bit of an up-and-down day," Patrick summarized. "We qualified 11th. So mid-pack is never the ideal spot to be. But (I) kind of knew that it was settle in, make good fuel mileage, be smart, and try to get 'em in the pits."

Patrick led as late as Lap 69 of the scheduled 90-lap race (won by Tony Kanaan under caution with 89 laps complete because of the 2-hour, 10-minute window), when she pitted for a fresh set of Firestone Firehawks and 22 gallons of ethanol. Her previous stop was on Lap 33.

"What are you going to do except try and be clever?" said Patrick, whose previous best was third twice this season. "That's what we did. We ran up front for a good chunk of time, led, made up some ground.

"You know, it was a fun-filled day for me. We weren't the fastest car, but we were fast enough to be in contention and be there to do something about it, which was half the battle today. My team did a great job of putting the Motorola car in the right spot at the right time with the strategy. Track position was absolutely everything today, so they did a good job.

"Caught some unlucky breaks, but in the end caught some lucky ones, came home second."

That overrode contact in Turn 1 during a Lap 31 restart, in which the nose of Darren Manning's No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car clipped the right-rear tire of Patrick's car. Both were able to continue. The cars driven by Vitor Meira, Sarah Fisher and Sam Hornish Jr. bore the brunt of the incident. Hornish's No. 6 Team Penske car returned to the fray on Lap 45.

On Lap 48, Patrick's car bumped the No. 8 Patron Rahal Letterman Racing car driven by Scott Sharp from the rear, sending it into the Turn 8 tire barrier. The team made suspension changes and Sharp rejoined to race to finish 11th.

"I wouldn't have said we were running up front all day today, but we have had our best result today," Patrick said. "I'd have to say that from basically Indy on, we've really been running up front the whole time.

"Being something that hasn't proven to do that well really in history -- consistently at least -- I guess you'd say I'm a bit of an underdog, too. Everybody loves that. Everybody cheers for that, right?"


The next IndyCar Series event is the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be televised live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway. ESPN2's coverage of the race will be televised at 5 p.m. on Sept. 13.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Sarah Fisher , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske