Series news and notes 2009-10-07

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. IndyCar Series Q & A - Title Contenders 2. The Contenders: Dixon seeks another record 1. IndyCar Series Q & A - Title Contenders: The three drivers competing for the IndyCar...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. IndyCar Series Q & A - Title Contenders
2. The Contenders: Dixon seeks another record

1. IndyCar Series Q & A - Title Contenders: The three drivers competing for the IndyCar Series driver championship, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe, participated in this week's Indy Racing League Q & A.

Dixon, a two-time series champion who seeks his second consecutive IndyCar Series title, leads his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and 2007 IndyCar Series champion Franchitti by five points with Team Penske's Briscoe just eight points behind entering the season-ending Firestone Indy 300 on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is the second-closest three-man championship in series history.

Q. What is your confidence level heading into this weekend? It's a winner--take--all event. Do you approach this race any differently from the previous 16? Scott, you're the points leader, so we'll start with you.

SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. For most of us, you almost treat it just as a normal race weekend. I think if you try to change your strategy or the way you approach the race, it might affect how quick you go over the outcome of the race, and ultimately the outcome of the championship.

So I think you try to keep it simple. Not put too much pressure on yourself and let it all play out. It's pretty much whoever beats who is going to walk away with the championship. So it's definitely good for all the fans and one of the toughest days for the drivers.

But I'm definitely looking forward to it. It should be a great show, and (a) happy (occasion) for one of us. It's been a great shootout so far as far as the whole championship's gone, and I think everybody's definitely put in a lot of hard work this season, teams and drivers and everybody else. We'll all find out probably 7:00 o'clock Saturday night

DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, I can echo what Scott said. It's the same as any other race. Points from the first race are the same as the points from the last race. You just go out there, do your best. The team that does the best (will win). Everybody's prepared, seemingly as they prepared for every race. We just go out there and do our best and see what we can do. Confidence--level wise, I think all three of us are fairly confident. We've had a good season. And it's just whoever does the best on Saturday night who gets a little bit of luck as well. Yeah. It's what we race for.

RYAN BRISCOE: I think the only difference is as we get down to the final stages of the race, it's you can't just feel, at least from my position, feel comfortable coming in if it's Dario (or Scott) in front of me. It won't make a difference coming second or 10th if they're in front of me. So the main difference is that we're going to have to put a lot on the line and do what I can to finish in front of them to finish in the final stages of the race.

Otherwise the approach going into the race is the same. We've all been doing a great job at all of these races this year. And there is no reason to change up what we've been doing. It's just, you know, there's a bit more on the line there as you come down to the final stages of the race

Q. Ryan, do you feel outmanned there, two against one? The two teammates against you? And also, I think Scott was the one who said that we'll know quickly, we'll know as far as the outcome? Why will we know so quickly?

RYAN BRISCOE: As far as feeling outnumbered, I really feel as though all three of us are going into this last race really in the same boat. It's either one of us win the race, it should be the championship.

Obviously, between myself and Scott, get a couple of bonus points in between. I might need more than that. But really, I think we're all feeling the same pressure going in. I'm sure Scott and Dario will still be working together to try to get the best performance out of their car. But the same way I'll be working with Helio (Castroneves) moving into the race, trying to get the best setup as well.

I think we're all in the same boat, still feeling the same pressure.

Q. Talk a little about the two teams. These two teams are always battling it seems like for championships every year. What is it about these particular teams that gets them to this high level and keeps them there all the time?

RYAN BRISCOE: I just think that both are just first class teams and they just put a lot into every aspect of the game. From pit stop practice, the crews are first class, the engineering department on both teams is what is most important to both of them.

I think that the confidence that each team has to go at each weekend and win races and the experience that each team has it all adds up. There are definitely a lot of similarities between the two teams.

Q. Dario, you're new to this side of the Ganassi Team, can you talk about that a little bit about what makes this team so good?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Having been with Team Green and then AGR for 10 years, I got to know the team there very well. And I think the Target team is definitely cut from same quality. The big difference that separates the successful teams from maybe the not so successful, some of it is budget for sure. But it's attention to detail. Attention to detail on the small things. These guys they focus on every single aspect of what it takes to win races and championships. And as a driver, they push you to do the same thing.

SCOTT DIXON: Just the same as what the other guys are saying. And more so with Dario, it's attention to detail. It's not one or two big things. It's 50 small things. That's what I think the team, does every day when they go into work or after a race weekend. First they look at how we performed, and then the next part of it is to really how they can better the cars and make things work better, obviously be quicker. So they're constantly looking ahead, where some teams try to maintain. That's not how you're going to come out with the ultimate performance.

Q. This is a showcase event of the year, pretty much for the championship at stake. There's pressure for you guys to put on a really good show. You think it's important to make this one of the great recent races in the series?

SCOTT DIXON: With no doubt, I think it's going to be exciting. Homestead, and some of the tracks we went to earlier in the year with the rules package that we had maybe wasn't the greatest racing. But I think with some of the changes they've made, and definitely Homestead being the typical track that it is, it's going to put on a fantastic show.

So for us, by all means I would love to walk away and try to leave the whole field and I wouldn't care about the show. But that's not what we're dealing with. And I'm sure the other two guys on the other end of the phone would think the same thing. No doubt in my mind that it's typical IndyCar Series, last race, last corner, last lap. It's going to come down to that.

***

2. The Contenders: Dixon seeks another record: Scott Dixon knew his season may be in trouble after he finished 15th in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in mid-April. The result was an uncharacteristic finish outside the top 10 for the second race in a row as the New Zealander opened defense of his IndyCar Series title.

"I was thinking, 'It's going to be one of those years where nothing seems to go right,' '' said Dixon, who kicked off his 2004 title defense with an 18th place in the season opener. "After the first couple of races where you're sitting 18th in points, you don't feel that good for sure and hope it's going to turn around."

The results initially put a dent in Dixon's quest for a second consecutive championship, but he has surely righted the program as he enters the Firestone Indy 300 on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a five-point lead over teammate Dario Franchitti and an eight-point margin on Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe for the second-closest three-man battle with one race left in series history.

There ar multitude of scenarios to determine the champion after 17 rounds of competition, but the 29-year-old New Zealander is focused on tying the series record for victories (six by Dixon in '08 and Dan Wheldon in '05). Accomplish that objective, and he'll join Sam Hornish Jr. as the only three-time series champion and only driver to win back-to-back titles.

"That quickly turned around," Dixon said of the early season stretch in which he won half of the oval races and finished in the top six of the other three. "This year has been a strange one. I'm surprised we're even in the fight because we've had really no flow. We've had such terrible races and have had such good ones as well.

"The team's done great as far as winning nine races between the two of us, but we've been up and down. We've had some odd finishes and some that have really taken some points away, so definitely it's not been a remake of the '08 season where everything seemed to go right."

Though Dixon won six races and posted 14 top-five finishes overall in 2008, the championship went down to the final race with Helio Castroneves. Castroneves won that race at Chicagoland Speedway, with Dixon's runner-up finish by 0.0033 of a second securing the title by 17 points.

Dixon also has been involved in final-race showdowns three other years since joining the IndyCar Series in 2003, which gives him a degree of insight in how to approach the remaining days until the green flag flies for the start of the 200-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval.

In 2007, it was more final-lap drama when Dixon and Franchitti - on rival teams at the time - were wheel to wheel through Turn 2 with the championship going to the car that crossed the finish line first. Franchitti, who had trailed the past six laps, overtook Dixon's fuel-starved car in Turn 4 at Chicagoland Speedway and went on to the race victory by 1.8 seconds and championship by 13 points.

In 2006, four drivers entered the season finale with a shot at winning the title, which wasn't decided until after the checkered flag fell. Castroneves led Team Penske teammate Hornish by one point, while Wheldon was 18 points back and Dixon was 21 behind. Wheldon finished 0.1897 of a second ahead of Dixon in the 200-lap race, followed by Hornish and Castroneves. Wheldon and Hornish tied in points, with Castroneves two back and Dixon 15 off the pace. Hornish claimed his third series title based on the first tiebreaker (four wins to Wheldon's two).

In 2003, Dixon clinched the title with a runner-up finish in the finale at Texas Motor Speedway.

"You're definitely more relaxed going into the final race," Dixon said. "You're not over-thinking things too much; just trying to get into a rhythm. Especially when you have problems, you know how to deal with them a little better, rewrite them or get them fixed quicker.

"I'm happy we're in the chase and it's definitely different from years previous where we're chasing instead of being chased. Hopefully there will be a lot of pressure on Ryan and we can keep that building. It's nice when you have a lot of points and you're leading and things keep going your way, but I think when you're being chased and it's really close as it was in '07 with Dario it's a lot of pressure and you really start to see things change in the last few races as we did last year.

"This year, it's Dario and I 1-2 in the championship going down to the last race. It's what we expect for IndyCar. It's going to be a crazy race. Obviously, the three of us are going to be pushing to the maximum. It's going to come down to the final lap, the final corner of Miami."

***

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) 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).

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing