Last month, when the IndyCar Series transitioned from the road/street course to the oval portion of the schedule, reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon predicted that the driver title would be decided in the season finale.
“It's what we expect for IndyCar,” he said. “It's going to come down to the final lap, the final corner of Miami.”
For the fourth consecutive year, it will be a shootout for the championship. Dixon enters the Firestone Indy 300 on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 570 points. Teammate Dario Franchitti is second with 565, and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe has 562.
“I guess we don't need a ‘Chase (for the championship),''' Franchitti said.
It's a winner-take-all scenario for Dixon and Franchitti - as it was in 2007, when Franchitti prevailed when Dixon ran out of fuel on the final lap at Chicagoland Speedway. There are a few additional criteria for Briscoe to claim his first title based on bonus points (one for earning the PEAK Performance Pole Award and two for leading the most laps in the Firestone Indy 300).
• If Briscoe wins the pole and the race, he wins the championship.
• If Briscoe wins the race and leads the most laps, he wins the championship.
• If Briscoe wins the race, earns the pole and leads the most laps, he wins the championship.
• If Briscoe wins the race but doesn't score any bonus points, Dixon can win the title if he finishes second and leads the most laps.
• Dixon will win any tiebreaker over Briscoe.
Eight points between first and third is the second-closest margin in IndyCar Series history with one race remaining, and the five points between first and second is the fourth-closest.
“It's going to be a hell of a show at Homestead,” Franchitti added.
Dixon has two victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway (from the pole in 2008 and coming from the 12th starting position in 2003 – both years he won the series title), and two other top-five finishes in six races at the 1.5-mile oval. Franchitti has a high finish of fourth (2006) and a pair of seventh-place finishes in five visits to South Florida. Briscoe started third in the 2008 opener (his first race with Team Penske), but was involved in a Lap 127 accident and finished 19th. He finished 22nd in his only other start (2005 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing).
Dixon vaulted to the top of the standings with a victory in the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi last weekend while Briscoe's miscue exiting pit lane – in which the left-front suspension of the No. 6 car incurred damage from brushing the inside retaining wall and running over a timing line cone – cost him position (finishing 18th) and points (the results marking a 41-point swing). Franchitti finished second for his 12th top five in 16 races.
“The good thing is that it's only eight points to Scott,” said Briscoe, whose run of top-five finishes that included two victories ended at seven. “I feel real good going into Homestead. We've been strong on all the (1.5-mile ovals) this year (but) it's going to be a tough one.
“I think it's a flip of a coin really who is the favorite going there between myself, Scott or Dario. I think all of us are fully capable of winning at that track. We're just going to have to be on our game, make everything absolutely perfect, be strong.”
Not by design, but the contenders will put in a day of testing on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval Sept. 25.
“It's going to be a crazy race,” Dixon said. “Obviously, the three of us are going to be pushing to the maximum.”