The 2009 Indycar Series heads to Homestead-Miami's 1.5mile for its season finale of the first time with the three title rivals separated by only eight points.
After the Ganassi 1-2 finish in Motegi, as Ryan Briscoe slumped his way (via a pit exit cone) to 18th reigning champion Scott Dixon holds a slender five point lead over his teammate (and 2007 champion) Dario Franchitti, with Briscoe a further three points back.
This will be the first time the Miami track (that also hosts NASCAR's final race) has hosted the series' final race, that honour previously going to Chicagoland for the last three seasons which has seen its share of close title races, including the 2007 event which saw Franchitti – then driving for Andretti Green – overcome Dixon on the final laps as the New Zealander ran out of fuel.
And despite the move to Homestead the narrowness of Dixon's margin and Indycar's points scheme mean it could easily be a matter of whoever crosses the line first becomes 2009 champion.
However, having the trophy on the line doesn't seem to be the first thing on the driver's minds.
“You almost treat it just as a normal race weekend,” described Dixon. “If you try to change your strategy or the way you approach the race, it might affect how quick you go over the outcome of the race. So I think you try to keep it simple.”
“It’s the same as any other race,” echoes Franchitti. “Points from the first race are the same as the points from the last race. You just go out there, do your best.”
Briscoe, the man with the least to lose, only differs slightly in his insight. “I think the only difference is as we get down to the final stages of the race, it’s you can’t just feel, at least from my position, feel comfortable coming in if it’s Dario (or Scott) in front of me. It won’t make a difference coming second or 10th if they’re in front of me”.
This will also be the first title decided with the new aerodynamic regulations and the “push to pass” boost option. Well, I think you’ve got to use it when you need to use it during the race,” states Briscoe rather obviously. “And obviously, if you’re out in front and maintaining a lead and maybe saving a bit of fuel, you don’t need to use it.”
“Oh, it would be unbelievable,” he adds moving onto his chances of taking the title. “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted something so much. You know, it really has been a fantastic year for me. Mistakes have been made on my part, but I feel I’m still improving and getting stronger and need to improve on some areas. But it’s just a phenomenal feeling being where I am right now.”
They will join 20 other drivers at the track, including a returning Alex Lloyd in the pink HER Energy Drink car (this time entered by Newman/Haas/Lanigan) for the race), each with their own race to run, chasing their own slice of glory, and prize money.
“It should be a great show and a happy occasion for one of us,” says Dixon