Ryan Briscoe inched ahead of Scott Dixon to snatch victory in a breathtaking finish to the Chicagoland IndyCar race.
The polesitting Penske driver recovered from a mid-race pit delay to
beat his Ganassi title rival by just 0.077 second -- as the top 13 cars
finished within a mere eight tenths of a second.
KV driver Mario Moraes claimed his first IndyCar podium by edging
past Ganassi's Dario Franchitti for third, with Graham Rahal, Ed
Carpenter and Oriol Servia completing the top six.
Briscoe had controlled the first half of the race, fending off huge
pressure initially from his teammate and front row partner Helio
Castroneves, and then from the charging Dixon.
The champion did manage to jump Briscoe at the first pit stops, but
only held the advantage for a handful of laps before the Australian
slipped back ahead.
It was only when the four-car Ganassi and Penske lead pack got into
heavy traffic that Briscoe's night went awry, as a wild moment among
the lapped cars on lap 75 saw the leader fall back to fourth as
Castroneves shot from third to first.
A parking miscue then cost Briscoe more ground at the second stops,
which came under yellow following a big crash for Andretti Green's
Hideki Mutoh. Having stopped too far from his crew, Briscoe was down at
the foot of the top ten when racing resumed, leaving Castroneves and
Dixon to battle for the lead.
Another yellow for Marco Andretti brushing the wall followed soon
after, and most of the leaders chose to pit again -- although Tony
Kanaan (Andretti Green) and Tomas Scheckter (Dreyer & Reinbold)
opted to stay out and briefly led at the restart.
Castroneves lost ground in the pits and then struggled to get back
out of the midfield, and with Briscoe still mired in the pack too, it
was Ganassi duo Franchitti and Dixon who shot to the front during the
next stint, ahead of Moraes.
Proactive use of the push-to-pass button eventually got Briscoe back
among the leaders, and he was able to get between the Ganassi duo at
the final stops, as Franchitti dropped back to fourth when his air gun
A late final stop saw Castroneves -- who had been running as low as
12th -- get back to third, but then a problem at the rear of his car
sent the Brazilian into the wall with 16 laps to go, prompting a final
yellow and setting up the spectacular finish.
Briscoe attacked Dixon throughout the remaining nine laps of green
flag racing, repeatedly sneaking ahead on the outside out of the final
corner, even though Dixon tended to lead on the other side of the track.
While the leaders went wheel to wheel, a stream of rivals tried to
join the fight, with Moraes and Rahal both managing to go three abreast
with Briscoe and Dixon at times.
On the last lap, Briscoe again moved in front out of the final
corner, doing just enough to pip Dixon to the line, as Moraes did
likewise to Franchitti right behind them. The result stretched
Briscoe's championship lead to 25 points with two rounds to go.
Rahal slipped back to fifth ahead of Vision's Ed Carpenter, who had
run as high as third early on after charging through from the midfield.
The American split the two Newman/Haas/Lanigan cars, as Servia came
home seventh for his best result since returning to the team.
Scheckter claimed eighth ahead of top rookie Raphael Matos (Luczo
Dragon) and Justin Wilson -- the latter producing one of his and Dale
Coyne Racing's strongest oval showings since joining the IndyCar Series.
Andretti fell back to 11th in the final shootout, although he had
previously recovered to fourth despite having to make an extra pit stop
due to a fuel rig problem, and then making minor contact with the wall.
He was the best of the AGR cars, as Danica Patrick and Kanaan followed
Pos Driver Team Gap
1. Ryan Briscoe Penske
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 0.0077s
3. Mario Moraes KV + 0.0699s
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 0.0997s
5. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 0.1295s
6. Ed Carpenter Vision + 0.1668s
7. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 0.2612s
8. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold + 0.2683s
9. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon + 0.3356s
10. Justin Wilson Coyne + 0.4344s
11. Marco Andretti Andretti Green + 0.5224s
12. Danica Patrick Andretti Green + 0.5840s
13. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green + 0.8269s
14. Sarah Fisher Fisher + 1 lap
15. Ryan Hunter-Reay Foyt + 1 lap
16. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold + 1 lap
17. EJ Viso HVM + 2 laps
18. Robert Doornbos HVM + 3 laps
19. Jaques Lazier 3G + 5 laps
Helio Castroneves Penske 184 laps
Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 155 laps
Dan Wheldon Panther 95 laps
Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 90 laps