Cheat Sheet: Chicagoland 2008

Posted by Iannucci | 9/06/2008 | 5 comments »
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You should probably know that despite racing for years in a series packed with them, going into 2008 Scott Dixon had only won once on a 1.5-mile oval track. Of course, this season he's done it a few times, which means for whatever reason Dixon this year is obviously a different flavor of Ice.

As a result, he's won 6 of 16 races (tied for the record), led 885 laps (just 4 behind the record), and is nearly a lock to win his second series championship. In fact, the only things standing in his way are himself and his team, as evidenced by the bizarre strategy Mike Hull and company devised for Dixon in the last few races. I'm not paid to be a race strategist but it seems to me Dixon would have sewn up the championship by now had he simply followed Helio Castroneves around the track and pitted when the #3 did.

But what do I know. I'm just an unprofessional word butcher.

Speaking of Castroneves, who knows what's going on with him. He starts in the back and practically needs to win to have any realistic shot at catching Dixon. He could probably use some help from his teammate who starts right next Dixon, and I mean that in the most brutal, thuggish and destructive sense of the word "help". Team Penske is the last team one would figure to try any such shenanigans, but that doesn't mean we all won't be watching closely at the start of the race.

Heck, Helio may even try to convince Dixon's lame-duck teammate to try something. Castroneves is hoping some driver is more than a little inspired by "Death Race" and he's hoping that driver is wedged up against Dixon at some point.

Favorite: Scott Dixon. Hey, the My Name Is IRL jinx has been working so let's keep it up. Really Scott, it's nothing personal. It would just be nice to see Helio battling up front and you simultaneously trying to pass for a critical position around, say, 12th. It's all about the drama, as you and your missing "beer can full of fuel" from last year illustrated.

Contender: Dan Wheldon. Since coming to Target Chip Ganassi Racing the Well Done one has won six races, five of which were on 1.5-mile super speedways. Welcome to the realm of Lord Wheldon. Prepare to be blinded by superior driving and dental work.

Longshot: Helio Castroneves. He's certainly been up to the task of closing the gap on Dixon by finishing 2nd or better in the last five races. In fact, Helio has finished in the Top 5 in all but two races all year. So why is he a longshot? Because he hasn't won on a 1.5-mile oval since Texas in 2004, and starting at the back won't help break that streak.

Drivers to Watch: Hideki Mutoh and Justin Wilson. On the undercard of the series title bout is this fine matchup, as Godzilla leads the Cajun Sheff by a mere 13 points for the Bombardier Rookie of the Year title. I promised at the beginning of the year that I would change the name of this site to "My Name Is (driver name)" for a week if anyone beat Mutoh for this award, and honestly I'm kinda bummed that Oriol Servia - who leads Mutoh by 11 points - does not qualify in Brian Barnhart's estimation.

Danica Threat Level: DanCon Two. Not a typo. Remember, she won at Motegi just when we least expected it, and she's pretty much not even in the conversation for this race. She's starting fourth, so should something nutty occur she'll be there to conserve her way to victory.

Drinking Term: "If the season ended right now..." as astutely suggested by the most honorable Indy Insider. No further explanation should be required. Please drink responsibly.

Stat of the Race: Just 17 points separate Wheldon and Tony Kanaan for third place. Maybe we should focus on that battle instead...OK, you can stop laughing now.

pressdog says: "By race time I'll be high as a kite on ethanol exhaust, baby! Sentimental pick: Danny Wheldon flashes The Teeth in the Chicagoland winner's circle after being pushed across the line by Dixon who wins the championship with authority. Sarah finishes in front of Danica! (Insert me losing bladder control here). Enjoy (the race, not the loss of bladder control)."

Strap yourselves in and get ready for a double dose of IndyCar action, because ESPN2 will carry the Indy Lights finale LIVE on Sunday Morning. Raphael Matos leads my extremely distant cousin Richard Antinucci by four points, so unlike the later race it's literally winner take all. Welcome to the final race day of the season, and most of all enjoy the shows!


  1. The American Mutt // September 07, 2008 7:14 AM  

    For the record,

    Danicas starting third...not fourth. The championship is over barring accident, but I'm betting this'll still be a good race. Isn't there a hurricane stopping that other series race today?

  2. Jeff Iannucci // September 07, 2008 8:04 AM  

    My bad, Mutt, but in my defense might I predict that despite starting in third she will quickly be passed by Tony Kanaan, shuffling back to fourth before the completion of the first turn.

  3. Carrie // September 07, 2008 8:16 AM  

    Mutt: The hurricane has already delayed both the NWS & SCS races until today. It might happen today, too, but I won't care because I'll be watching the Indy Lights and ICS races. :-)

    Goooo Rafa & Helio!

  4. the american mutt // September 07, 2008 9:02 AM  

    While I'm obviously rooting for Helio to place, and Dixons to snap a half shaft, I'm mostly rooting for a Vitor win because regardless of the championship, were he to win, IT would steal all thunder from anything else that happened.

  5. Bash // September 07, 2008 9:26 AM  

    Tossing my support to Vitor - a Meira visit to Victory Lane would have me wiping "a womanly tear" (or hundred.)
    Thanks to Jeff and the p'dog for the coverage!