Chicago IRL Race

Joliet, IL – With the recent announcement in Detroit that Target-Ganassi Racing would replace Dan Wheldon with 2007 series champion Dario Franchitti, the 2007 Indy 500 winner admitted that he began thinking about the move back to open-wheel in May as the cars hit the track for practice at Indianapolis. He also stated that the unification of Champ Car and IRL has made the series much more attractive than in the past. ” Part of the reason that I signed with Ganassi last year was because of how many options that Chip has at his disposal for a driver. You can do almost any form of racng that you want. With unification and the new schedule, having more road and street courses, it made me think about this more and more. I really enjoyed this past season in the stock cars and haven’t completely closed that chapter of my professional career, but the opportunity that arose was just something I could not pass up” It is assumed that Ganassi has a sponsor lined up for Franchitti’s 2009 team.

Notes: Series Champion Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan ran the opening laps of the race side-by-side, Kanaan in his usual 7-Eleven car, but with an unusual yellow and white livery.

Taking advantage of starting the Peak 300 from the rear after being penalized following qualifications, Helio Castroneves’ Penske team changed the engine on the # 3 prior to the event. Helio responded by moving to tenth spot by the twenty- lap mark and the lead on lap 77 after a pit stop.

Arie Luyendyk Jr’s. win in the Indy Lights support race was his first after 62 series starts. Prior to this he was runner-up six times.

Vitor Meira likely has run his last race for Panther Racing as his spot is being taken by Dan Wheldon in 2009. Meira took the high road in his pre-race comments about being released, but he had difficulty masking his disappointment. “I didn’t want to leave Panther because I know how good the car is going to be next year. I’m sad to leave, and I don’t agree with all the decisions that have been made, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about Panther Racing, and I’ll always have respect for them.” Meira’s day ended against the turn-two wall in a crash that featured an unusual loss of a wheel. Unusual in that since the IRL mandated teathers on all wheels, very few have come off.

As he did at Detroit last week, Canadian Alex Tagliani replaced the injured Enrique Bernoldi in the Conquest Racing entry. The team’s first race in the IRL was here at Chicagoland seven seasons ago.

Wheldon, Castroneves, and Ryan Briscoe ran several laps in three -abreast formation without any contact.

The Integra Indy Lights team had Wade Cunningham in their car this weekend and have signed him to fill the seat in 2009 as well. Among other honors, Cunningham was the 2003 World Karting Champion and the Lights champ in 2005.

Though this is the final points race for 2008, the IRL will finish the season with a non-points event at Surfers Paradise in Australia on October 26. Most drivers hope that the race will return to the regular schedule in 2009.

Veteran Indy car owner Greg Beck has teamed with motorsports marketing veteran Steve Sudler to form Team 3G LLC with the intension of competing in both the Indy Car and Indy Lights series next season.

Oconomowoc, WI pilot Bobby Wilson drove a Lights entry for Panther Racing here in Chicago as his regular ride with Team E chose not to compete.

Today’s event was the eighth IRL race run at the track since it opened in 2001.

A rumor making the rounds here has Sebastien Bourdais possibly returning to the NHL team after a year in Formula One. Bourdais has been competitive of late in F-1 and the NHL team would have to enter three cars or drop a driver (either Graham Rahal or Justin Wilson) to make room for Bourdais. Many feel that either move by the team is unlikely.

Castroneves did his part in making the run for the series title close as he led the most laps in the race, but Dixon finished second, though he only needed eighth spot to secure the crown.

Despite the Peak 300 running up against the opening of the NFL season, a capacity crowd attended the Dixon-Castroneves battle for the Championship here in Joliet.

Track officials hinted that they received the NASCAR Truck Series race as a support event for the 2009 IRL race, in exchange for losing the final series event to Homestead.

Despite the electronic scoring recording Dixon as the winner, Castroneves was declared the victor based on the photo finish that clearly showed the Penske car barely in first place. It was explained by IRL official John Griffin that scoring can’t be accurate if the finish is closer than .006 seconds or less. The Indy Car series furnished the media with the photo that proved Castroneves win.

In 2009 the second Red Bull Moto GP race in Indianapolis is scheduled opposite the IRL race here at Chicagoland, though the race here will run on Saturday night with the IMS event going on Sunday. IMS/IRL officials don’t foresee a problem with both races on the same weekend. At present the Governor’s Cup race at the Milwaukee Mile is tentatively set for that same weekend, August 29-30.

Dixon admitted that it was quite a shock to be celebrating his race win in victory lane and then have the winners hat snatched from his head and the car rolled out from under him to make way for Castroneves recently declared winning car. ” It’s typical of the whole wacky season,” he later laughed.

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