Series news and notes 2009-08-10

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Who wants the Cup? Championship lead flip flops at Mid-Ohio, again 2. Strong finish feels like first for Panther's Plowman 3. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Who wants the Cup? Championship lead flip flops at Mid-Ohio, again
2. Strong finish feels like first for Panther's Plowman
3. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race

1. Who wants the Cup? Championship lead flip flops at Mid-Ohio, again: Scott Dixon might have entertained a thought that he'd gain some traction in the IndyCar Series championship race with the commanding victory Aug. 9 in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance.

But that doesn't follow the season's script. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe was right behind (figuratively if not by a close distance) and Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Dario Franchitti, finished third in the 85-lap race on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit.

So, for the 12th time in the 13 races the points lead has changed hands - not allowing any of the three to build momentum or a sizable gap heading into the final four events. Eight lead exchanges had been the most through the 16-race season in 2003.

Dixon, who's won four times (most recently his IndyCar Series-record 20th), heads to the Aug. 22-23 Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway with a three-point advantage over Briscoe, whose two victories have been augmented by a half-dozen runner-up finishes. Franchitti, the 2007 series champion, is 20 points arrears.

It's the third time since 2001 that the top three are separated by 20 or fewer points with four races left (12 points in 2002 and '03 being the closest) and the closest 1-2 during that same time span. With four races remaining last year, Dixon led Helio Castroneves by 65 points only to see the title decided in the season finale for the third consecutive year. So he isn't taking anything for granted.

"It's the IndyCar Series so, obviously, it will come down to the wire and it's going to be tough," said Dixon, who's lost and won the championship in the final event the past two years. "It's been a strange season in the fact that it doesn't seem like anybody really wants to lead the championship. There's been some flopping back and forth between myself and Dario and Ryan and TK (Tony Kanaan) so it's been quite interesting.

"I think it's quite obvious that it's going to come down to Homestead (Oct. 10). We've got a great mix of circuits yet to come with a road course and a few ovals so it's going to be a tough championship."

Following Infineon, there are 1.5-mile oval events at Chicagoland Speedway, Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dixon and Briscoe (sharing a car with Castroneves) will be among the competitors testing Aug. 12-13 at the 2.2-mile Infineon Raceway.

"I'm really excited to be in the championship," Briscoe said. "It's been a fantastic year. It's definitely intense and can get frustrating at times. You look back on races, and for me it's ones like Richmond where I only got 12 points. If I could have gotten top 5 or something, what the difference could be. But that's where you just need to keep looking ahead, keep your head down and you've got to finish these races and finish at the front and just stay focused.

"I like the next four tracks we're going to. It's going to be exciting and it's probably going to be (close) to the end."

Each of the three has started from the pole at Infineon (Briscoe in 2005, Dixon in '06 and Franchitti in '07), and Dixon won in 2007 from the fifth starting spot. Franchitti has finished second and third in his past two races on the natural-terrain course, while Briscoe started and finished second last year.

"I don't really care for leading the championship at this point," Dixon said matter-of-factly. "The only time you want to lead it is at the end."

***

2. Strong finish feels like first for Panther's Plowman: It was easy to find Panther Racing's Martin Plowman after the Mid-Ohio 100. He was the driver on pit lane with the big smile on his face even if he missed the podium.

The young Englishman matched his career-best finish with a fifth place - his team's first top-five on a road course since 2007.

"This feels like a small victory," Plowman said.

After starting in the seventh spot, Plowman picked up a spot on the first lap, and fought his way up to fifth, holding off the pressure of Daniel Herrington for the last 10 laps of the 40-lap race.

Plowman praised his team's effort in securing the strong finish after a rough test session at the track in June.

"We were at the back of the grid and by a long way," Plowman said. "But my engineer, Al Bodey, and all the guys got together and analyzed what was wrong with the car and what we needed and for the couple of past races we've improved a lot.

"I was blown away with how the car felt after the first lap of practice; it was totally different from what we had here in the beginning of June, and it was just what we needed. They gave me a great race car, and I owe the guys for this one."

***

3. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 bonus from Firestone each week. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three "Tire"-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote at www.indycar.com.

From the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, fans can choose from:

* Marco Andretti for going the second half of the race on one set of alternates to finish sixth.

* Scott Dixon for using a perfect racing pick to pass for the lead on Lap 37.

* Ryan Hunter-Reay for a strong drive to fourth place.

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 23 with the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. A one-hour qualifying show will be telecast by VERSUS at 6 p.m. on Aug. 22. 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 Carneros 100 on Aug. 23 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 24 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Daniel Herrington , Martin Plowman
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing