30 August 2009

Chicagoland Comes Through Again

Looking to attend just one IndyCar race a year?  If you're looking for side-by-side racing and a high probability of a photo finish, the evidence is quite clear - you need to head to Chicagoland Speedway.  Once again, the track delivered, as Ryan Briscoe somehow passed Scott Dixon on the penultimate lap to win the race by .0077 second and build on his points lead.

Indianapolis has the spectacle, history and tradition (I will never miss this race); Kentucky has a similar setup to Chicagoland and camping; Iowa is a bull ring; Texas has a history of close finishes.  But Chicago has the most close finishes in series history (now three of the four closest in IndyCar Series history) and is close to Indianapolis (3 hours or so, allowing you to drive to it the day-of, like Kentucky) and is near Chicago if you want to make a weekend out of it.  Why I haven't been there yet is a failing on my part.  Next year I will correct this.

Courtesy of teammate Helio Castroneves, who suffered suspension failure for the second straight race, Briscoe was aided in catching the Target-Chip Ganassi cars of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.  The duo had built an impressive lead after green-flag pit stops, and Briscoe used most of his push-to-passes getting back to third place.  His work was inversely proportional to blog favorite Tony Kanaan, who entered the pits in fifth and when everyone had cycled through was in 12th.  That's probably why he tweeted:
Morning, very frustrated night. Not happy at all. Let's turn the page and move on.
(UPDATE, as of 12:30 p.m., Aug. 31:  Tony Kanaan says he wasn't upset at Marco Andretti when he went to talk to Michael Andretti after the race, he was upset about the race strategy, which included him losing several spots during green-flag pit stops after he stayed out while most of the field pitted.)  From @TonyKanaan: 
To clear things out here guys, I went to talk to Michael after the race about the strategy, nothing happen btw me and Marco.
With Dixon well out front, Castroneves' crash was just what Briscoe needed to bunch the field and get around the Target cars.  And with a lap to go, he did just that.  The yellow flag also created the closest 1-13 finish in series history - just 0.8269 second separated Briscoe from Kanaan.

Now Kentucky was a fantastic race because of the racing throughout the field, with drivers trading places most of the night.  Chicagoland was exactly the same, if not more exciting, as multiple cars were going three-wide throughout the night.  Honestly, who didn't think that the combination of Mario Moraes, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti going three-wide in the closing laps would not result in a wreck?  Amazingly, it didn't.

Even with Versus seemingly cutting to commercials every 10-15 laps (seriously, you don't have enough ads for this.), it is apparent that the IndyCar Series is back on track with their oval racing setup (though admittedly the late yellow really helped after the field separated themselves in green-flag stops).  

As usual, Chicagoland proved to be the grounds for exciting races.  Let's hope Motegi (get excited - it's 3 weeks from now!) and Homestead-Miami deliver the goods as well.

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