Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Rearview mirror: Classic IndyCar Series championship races 2. Vision teammates wins karting event 1. Rearview Mirror: Classic IndyCar Series Championship Races: Just eight...
Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Rearview mirror: Classic IndyCar Series championship races
2. Vision teammates wins karting event
1. 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 fourth of a six-part series looking back at some of the classic championship races in IndyCar Series history.
Today: 2006: Fit To Be Tied
Who: Sam Hornish Jr., Dan Wheldon, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon
Where: Chicagoland Speedway (Sept. 10, 2006)
Helio Castroneves led Team Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr., by one point, 441-440, in the standings after the second-to-last race of the season, the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 27 at Infineon Raceway. Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon were third and fourth, respectively, at 422 and 420 points. That set up a four-man, two-team showdown for the championship in the season-ending PEAK Antifreeze 300 on Sept. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Hornish won the Indianapolis 500 in May, but two of his other three victories during the summer came on 1.5-mile ovals like Chicagoland, which was a good omen as he attempted to become the first driver to win three IndyCar Series championships. But Castroneves also had enjoyed success on 1.5-milers, winning at Twin Ring Motegi and Texas among his four wins entering the finale.
So it appeared Team Penske was in good shape for its first IndyCar Series season title since joining the series full time in 2002. Wheldon, however, nearly stole the show in his first season with Ganassi after winning the title in 2005 with Andretti Green Racing.
Wheldon dominated at Chicagoland, leading 166 of 200 laps to edge teammate Dixon by .1897 of a second for the victory. Hornish repressed his instincts to duel with Wheldon and Dixon for victory - reminded on the radio of the championship math of only needing to finish third by team owner Roger Penske - and followed orders precisely, finishing third. Castroneves rallied from an early pit road speed limit penalty to finish fourth, as the title contenders occupied the top four spots in the race. But it wasn't enough for Castroneves.
Hornish and Wheldon finished the season tied at 475 points, but Hornish claimed his record third title on the tie-breaker of four victories to Wheldon's two. Castroneves was third, an agonizing two points short at 473. Dixon was fourth at 460.
What They Say Now:
Sam Hornish Jr.: "It's tough because you want to race (Wheldon) hard. At that point, Roger (Penske) didn't have any wins as far as (IndyCar Series) championships go. I'm sure that we both wanted to do that. I think Helio had a bit of a points lead on us going into that last race. He had a pit-road speeding penalty that kept him out of it. I thought while that's not good for him, it's good for me. All I need to do is make sure I finish the race. And then lo and behold, a couple of yellows came out and Helio got back on the lead lap. And I thought, 'Here we go again.' It was real close. Dan and Scott were both there, too. But at the end of the day, I wanted to go out there and win the race. And every time I got up there beside those guys, Roger would tell me: 'Just sit there. All you've got to do is finish the race third. That's all you've got to do.' I wanted to win the race. But I also had to be smart about it. We didn't want something to happen and lose the championship. We knew that Dan could lead all the laps and win the race, and as long as I finished third. There was a time where I got around Dixon for second. In order to keep Dixon behind me, I was going to have to go up and run side by side with Dan. I had done that before, and I knew that while we had had some pretty good races running together that we did have a couple of small run-ins. I didn't forget about him. I knew there was an opportunity for him to go out and win the championship. But the biggest thing I had to take care of was to make sure I brought the thing home in one piece and that we were ahead of Helio. And Dan had Scott (Dixon) up there blocking for him, and it was a tough day for us. Emotionally, you're happy because you won the championship, but you wanted to win the race, too."
Dan Wheldon: "In 2005, I had an unbelievable run. I was very fortunate to be part of Honda's program and Andretti Green Racing. It looked easy, but it wasn't because I was battling Tony Kanaan for the title, and he doesn't make things easy. That was a very special year but comparing it to 2006, that was very intense. It came down to the last race, and it was back and forth. It wasn't as back and forth as it is this year, but it was close. It was Target Chip Ganassi Racing battling Team Penske, and my teammate (Scott Dixon) was involved, as well. That was fun, too. We finished in tie with Sam Hornish Jr., and lost the championship on the tiebreaker. It was tough, but not really that tough. Honestly, when you look back at the season, I thought we were dominant at a lot of racetracks, but we gave up a lot of points. I did some of it to myself. I remember we were leading at Kentucky with six or seven laps to go and coming into the pits too fast and blowing right through my pit stall. It was one of those championships where we very dominant a lot of the time, but we didn't capitalize on it. When you don't do that, you only have yourself to blame. Because of that, it wasn't as frustrating as you think it could be. If we had maximized everything that we could have and tied, I think it would have been much more frustrating. I think Sam (Hornish) was a very deserving champion because we gave up so many points. By the same token, it was a very enjoyable year because we were always running up front. That's what I love to do. I have fond memories of that, but not winning because of the tiebreaker isn't as frustrating as I thought it would be."
2. Vision teammates wins karting event: IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter and Vision Racing engineer Nathan O'Rourke won the Mazda Robo-Pong 200 presented by Bridgestone go-karting event on Sept. 27 at New Castle Motorsports Park.
Forty-seven teams competed in the sixth annual 200-lap endurance karting event on the 1-mile circuit, featuring IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers.
The Crepes & Waffles-Yacaman Racing/D-Power Engines entry driven by Firestone Indy Lights competitor Gustavo Yacaman and Camilo Echevarria finished 10th, while the Screaming Talent/H Power/PBIR/Maranello #1 kart driven by 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion Jay Howard and Joe Paterson finished 13th.
Also competing in the race were Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon (with Mark Dismore Jr., finished 34th after starting third) and Vision Racing Firestone Indy Lights driver James Davison (with Brandon Newey, finished 46th after starting fourth). Both teams were involved in a first-lap incident involving multiple karts.
Firestone Indy Lights driver Brandon Wagner, co-driving with Travis Iles, finished 29th, and Panther Racing Firestone Indy Lights driver Martin Plowman, co-driving with Eric Morrow, finished 31st.
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 90-minute 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).