Series news and notes 2009-08-26

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Chicagoland Speedway plays key role in title race 2. IndyCar Series Q & A - Mario Moraes and Robert Doornbos 3. Philippe, Yacaman medical update 1. Chicagoland Speedway plays key ...

Series news and notes 2009-08-26

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Chicagoland Speedway plays key role in title race
2. IndyCar Series Q & A - Mario Moraes and Robert Doornbos
3. Philippe, Yacaman medical update

1. Chicagoland Speedway plays key role in title race: Each of the past three years, Chicagoland Speedway has hosted the deciding race in the IndyCar Series driver championship. The ninth race on the action-packed 1.5-mile oval again will be a factor in determining the 2009 titleholder.

The PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 this weekend is the 15th of 17 events on the schedule, with Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe entering the 200-lap race with a four-point advantage over Dario Franchitti. His Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, is 20 points out of the lead.

It's the 12th time in 14 races that the margin between first and second has been 10 points or fewer, and the difference between first and third is the third-closest with three races remaining.

"The points championship looks like it's going to go down to the wire again, which we've been fortunate to have the championship do that for the last several years," Indy Racing League president of competition and operations Brian Barnhart said. "The contenders all have had issues to contend with early in the season, missed out on opportunities to score some important points. That's clearly something they have to avoid in the final races. You can't have any missteps from here on out; there just isn't any time to make that up."

The top three in points all have had success on the circuit. Dixon has been involved in the past two years that decided the title - 2008 fell in his favor. In '07, pole sitter Franchitti's pass of Dixon in Turn 4 of the final lap gave him the championship in the winner-take-all race.

"I think between the two of us we've got cars in the Target team that can win all those last three races," said Dixon, who has four second-place finishes (including the past three years in a row). "That's the attitude. We have to go out there and try and dominate and hopefully I'll win another championship."

Briscoe was the pole sitter last year and finished third behind Dixon and teammate Helio Castroneves.

"Looking at how this championship's gone so far, no one can hang on to the lead," said Briscoe, who has been the points leader five different times following the 14 races. "I think we're seeing that wins reward greatly, and I think whoever's going to win this championship needs to go out and win races. Obviously you need to finish and collect points. But getting those 50 points is always really important."

A look at Chicagoland Speedway's influence in the IndyCar Series championship:

* 2008: Helio Castroneves entered the 200-lap race trailing Dixon by 43 points. Worse, he was starting from the rear of the 28-car field because of a post-qualifying technical inspection infraction. But the Team Penske driver blazed a path to the front to beat Dixon to the checkered flag by 0.0033 of a second - the second-closest finish in IndyCar Series history. The runner-up finish enabled Dixon to win the title by 17 points.

* 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 and went on to the race victory by 1.8 seconds and championship by 13 points.

* 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 Sam Hornish Jr. by one point, while '05 series champion Dan Wheldon was 18 points back and Dixon was 21 behind. Wheldon finished 0.1897 of a second ahead of Dixon, followed by Hornish and Castroneves. Wheldon and Hornish tied in points, with Castroneves two back and Dixon 13 off the pace. Hornish claimed his third series title based on the first tiebreaker (four wins to Wheldon's two).

* 2005: Wheldon opened a 102-point lead over Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan with a victory in the 15th of 17 races, which allowed him to clinch the title in the next race. Wheldon, who won a series-record six races, led 88 of the 200 laps.

* 2004: Kanaan, who would go on to complete every lap during the season, finished third to Adrian Fernandez and Bryan Herta. The result gave Kanaan a 75-point margin over rookie teammate Wheldon with two races remaining. Kanaan wrapped up the title in the next race.

* 2003: Hornish won the race by 0.0099 of a second over Dixon to remain in championship contention, but it was Dixon's result that closed the gap on Castroneves with two races remaining. Castroneves, who won the previous race at Nazareth Speedway for a 25-point lead, retired with 17 laps left with a gearbox issue and finished 20th. Dixon gained 13 points on the front-runner and clinched the title with another runner-up finish in the season finale.

* 2002: Eight points separated Castroneves, Gil de Ferran and Hornish heading into the 14th race of the season. Hornish took charge of the championship with victories at Chicagoland and Texas by a combined margin of 0.012 of a second to edge Castroneves for the title by 20 points. At Chicagoland Speedway, Hornish dueled with Al Unser Jr. the final 50 laps and won by 0.0024 of a second - the closest finish in IndyCar Series history.

* 2001: In the 12th of 13 races on the calendar, Hornish wraps up the championship with a second-place finish to Jaques Lazier.


2. IndyCar Series Q & A - Mario Moraes and Robert Doornbos: IndyCar Series drivers Mario Moraes and Robert Doornbos participated in a Q&A session this week and discussed the most recent IndyCar Series race at Infineon Raceway and the final three races of the IndyCar Series schedule. Below are select quotes from their interviews.

Mario Moraes

* 20-year-native of Sao Paolo, Brazil is competing in his second season in the IndyCar Series and first with KV Racing Technology.

* Drives the No. 5 Azul Tequilla/Votorantim/KV Racing Technology entry

* Ranks 18th in points with one top-five finish and three top-10 finishes.

* Has 29 career starts, recording first top-five finish of his career at Infineon Raceway.

Q. Mario, how good did that race feel to you after being out of the car for a week?

MARIO MORAES: Well, it was great to be back in the car. The last two weeks has been really busy for me, really hard to go through. But, well, unfortunately we had a problem going to the qualifiers, we make a wrong change. Then we come back for the warm--up in the morning on Sunday morning, and the car was really fast, so we are really confident for the race.

And, well, I was just looking forward to the race, because I need to be really calm and just do what the car could do. And, well, I think everybody thought the car was really fast.

Q. How much confidence does a good finish give you going into another race weekend?

MARIO MORAES: Well, you know, I think the thing was waiting for this good finish for the whole season, you know. Unfortunately, we had some bad luck during the season. But, well, this has given me, made me much more confident, because, well, we go to the ovals and our car in the ovals is pretty good.

Robert Doornbos

* 27-year-native of Rotterdam, Netherlands is competing in his firsyt season in the IndyCar Series.

* Drives the No. 33 HVM Racing entry

* Ranks 15th in points with five top-10 finishes. Is second in Rookie of the Year points, seven points behind Raphael Matos.

Q. You showed you were very quick on ovals earlier this season. As we said you've moved to a new team. Can you bring what you've learned at Newman/Haas to HVM and help elevate that to ovals?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: I think so. Like the oval, I did with Kansas and qualified on the front row and I was leading for a while. So it was a lot of fun.

And Indy we were quite competitive and it's a different view of oval racing. It's very hard to set up the car still, completely different than what I learned over the years in Europe and Formula One. On the ovals, it's all asymmetric stuff.

I get good coaching from Arie Luyendyk. And he's involved and tries to speed up the learning process. And other than that we're just going to go for it this weekend in Chicago. It's another new oval for me like Motegi and Miami but I think we can be competitive in the mid field with some luck get a great result.

Q. You mentioned you work with Arie Luyendyk who won two Indy 500s, was very good on ovals. What's the best piece of advice that he's given to you about racing on ovals?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: I thought you wanted to say best piece of advice about social life. But on ovals, he would say just the trick for any rookie: If you go into the Indy Lights maybe you have more experience on what it's all about.

Racing on ovals straightaway with these guys who have done it for years, it was a bit of acclimatation period and it's good advice, just different lines and what to do in different circumstances and lots to take in at once, but at least we can talk the same language and I can learn fast.

Q. You were in a pretty tight rookie of the year battle with Rafael Matos with the three races on the ovals remaining and experience with Indy. Does it feel like you can catch him and win rookie of the year?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: It would be great. He would obviously love to win it for his team and I would love to win it just to give some sort of highlight to my season.

It's been a very tough year for me on and off the track. And you feel like you deserve it. But we have to work hard for it and we'll see where we get.

If his car is very competitive, it's going to be harder to close the gap because on the ovals you are limited to what the car's capable of. Just have to wait and see how good we are going to be and the race is all a different deal. You need some luck at the right time as well.


3. Philippe, Yacaman medical update: The following is a medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger, Indy Racing League director of medical services:

Conquest Racing driver Nelson Philippe has been released from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., and back at his South Florida home. On Saturday during IndyCar Series practice at Infineon Raceway Philippe suffered a concussion and an open fracture of his left foot. He underwent surgery to have the foot fracture washed out and repaired. After further examination, it was found that Philippe also suffered a hairline fracture of his right fibula and he was fitted with a brace.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver Gustavo Yacaman met with Dr. Trammell in Indianapolis on Tuesday and he was diagnosed with a minimally compressed fracture of the fifth thoracic vertebra. Yacaman was involved in a Lap 1 incident during Sunday's Firestone Indy Lights race when his right-front tire of Yacaman's car made contact with the left-rear of Daniel Herrington's No. 28, shooting Yacaman's car off the concrete retaining wall in Turn 11.


The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 29 with the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 9 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. A one-hour qualifying show will be telecast by VERSUS at 6 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 28. 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 The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Chicagoland 100 on Aug. 29 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 31 by VERSUS.

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