JOLIET Ill. (August 29, 2009) - Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe produced a dramatic victory at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday night in an evening filled with thrills and memorable side-by-side racing.
Briscoe drove from 13th place to Victory Lane to pad his lead in the IndyCar Series championship standings with just two races remaining in the 2009 season.
As he narrowly beat Scott Dixon to the finish line by little more than two feet - 0.0077 of a second - Briscoe captured the Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 for the fourth-closest margin of victory in IndyCar Series history.
"It was a good night," said Briscoe. "It definitely wasn't as smooth as I would have liked, but we had a very good car. It was fast and consistent. I didn't think I was going to have enough for Scott, but as soon as I was able to get beside him, it really slowed both of our cars down a lot and really evened things out. That gave me the chance to beat him across the line."
Briscoe now leads Dario Franchitti, who finished fourth, by 25 points and Dixon by 33 in the drivers' standings with just two races left on the 2009 schedule - Sept. 19 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Briscoe's teammate, Helio Castroneves, was running third when a suspension part failed on the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda and sent him into the wall with 15 laps remaining in the race. Castroneves was examined and quickly released from the infield medical center.
As he finished 20th in the final running order, Castroneves was eliminated from the championship race. He fell 167 points behind Briscoe as he remained fourth in the standings.
"We had a great race going until that incident," said Castroneves. "The Team Penske car was running very well, but then we had an issue with our front suspension and I ended up in the wall."
The victory was Briscoe's first at Chicagoland Speedway and third win of the 2009 season. He won earlier this year at St. Petersburg and Kentucky. He had finished second seven times this season, but won from the pole Saturday for the first time in his career.
"We've got to stay focused," said Briscoe. "The Target cars (Franchitti and Dixon) are going to be there in Motegi and Homestead, so we just have to stay focused. We've had good cars on all the mile-and-half ovals this year. We've just got to keep it together. We had a couple of mistakes tonight but were able to come back. We've just have to try to avoid those situations."
Briscoe was running fourth when he missed his marks on a pit stop, which created difficulty in fueling the car and the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda fell to eighth place. Briscoe then dropped to 13th before he rallied, moving into the lead with 40 laps to go.
After the green flag race restart following Castroneves' accident, Briscoe and Dixon staged a memorable battle. The two title contenders swapped the lead four times over the final nine laps to highlight a race that featured two- and three-wide battles throughout the field.
"It was really good racing, really close," Briscoe said. "I was just happy when after about 40 laps or so, my spotter said ‘Clear all around.' It was the best thing I'd heard in a long time."
Castroneves' crash ended his bid for the championship, but it didn't end his drive to finish on a positive note while helping his teammate pursue his first series title.
"It's unfortunate because we could have battled for the win there at the end," said Castroneves, who edged Dixon in the second-closest finish in series' history last year at Chicago. "The good news is that I'm OK and now we just have to move on to Japan. Congratulations to my teammate, Ryan. He ran a fantastic race and made some good headway in the championship."
The IndyCar Series will enjoy a three-week break before traveling to Motegi for the Indy Japan 300.