CROSSED FLAGS: A Look at the halfway point of the 2009 IndyCar Series season THE DRIVERS SPEAK INDIANAPOLIS - Tuesday, July 07, 2009 - Round up 20-plus IndyCar Series drivers for an informal and anonymous survey at the midpoint of the season...
CROSSED FLAGS: A Look at the halfway point of the 2009 IndyCar Series season
THE DRIVERS SPEAK
INDIANAPOLIS - Tuesday, July 07, 2009 - Round up 20-plus IndyCar Series drivers for an informal and anonymous survey at the midpoint of the season and naturally you'll receive nearly as many responses to each question.
There was a sole exception: Will the championship chase go down to the wire? The answer was a unanimous and resounding "Yes," which only makes sense. With a tight points race through nine of the 17 events and the past three driver titles being decided in the season finale, all indications point to a showdown Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"Without a doubt; it has been too competitive for it not to be," said Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal, who's among the six pole winners this season.
Reigning series champion Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing claimed front-runner status with a third-place finish at Watkins Glen on July 5 - 19 points clear of teammate Dario Franchitti and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe heading to the Honda Indy Toronto on July 12.
While tenuous, it's the largest points differential of the season between 1-2 (after seven of the nine races it had been 10 or less). Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, a two-time winner, and Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick are within 75 points. A victory earns 50 points, with 40 for second, 35, 32, etc. Four different drivers have held the top spot, with only Briscoe maintaining it after two consecutive races.
"For me, it's exciting to be in this title hunt," said Briscoe, who has a victory and four runner-up finishes including to Justin Wilson at The Glen. "It's going to be a tough one. It's going to go right down to the wire, but it's great. We're racing with a bunch of very good drivers and it's a lot of fun."
The remainder of the schedule is split down the middle into street/road courses and 1.5-mile ovals. There were five different winners in the first half, which comprised three street/road circuits, two 1.5-mile ovals, the Indianapolis 500 on the 2.5-mile oval and three races on ovals one mile or less.
"All of us are sort of looking at the championship so far and saying, 'Man, if that didn't happen here if that didn't happen there, I could have had a big lead in the championship at the moment,' '' Briscoe said. "But it is very close. Scott's got a bit of a lead at the moment, but it's pretty small for where we are in the championship."
Six drivers who led at the season's midpoint have gone on to claim the title, including Dixon and Franchitti the past two years. Dixon held off Helio Castroneves' charge to win by 17 points and Franchitti, driving for Andretti Green Racing in 2007, edged Dixon by 13 points in a championship chase that went down to the final lap.
In 2006, Castroneves was the midseason leader by five over Sam Hornish Jr. and 35 over Dan Wheldon. Hornish and Wheldon wound up tied in points after the finale, with Hornish claiming his third series title based on a tiebreaker (four wins to Wheldon's two). Castroneves finished two points back.
The complete questionnaire with leading vote-getters:
Team/Driver that have surprised you the most
Mario Moraes / KV Racing Technology
Team/driver that have disappointed you to date
Tony Kanaan / Andretti Green Racing
Pick to win the championship out of the current top five
Surprise during the second half of the season
Darkhorse to win the title
Next first time winner
Predict a championship chase involving few or many
Will the championship go down to the wire at Miami
INDYCAR SERIES AT HALFWAY
The driver leading the IndyCar Series championship at the midway point of the season has won the title in six of the last 12 seasons, dating to the 1996-97 season.
Two-time series champion Scott Dixon assumed the points lead at Watkins Glen, the second consecutive year that he has held the lead at the halfway point.
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues July 12 with the Honda Indy Toronto at the streets of Toronto. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. 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. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto on July 11 at the streets of Toronto. The race will be telecast at 11 p.m. on July 13.