Meijer Indy 300
"50 Points Baby"
by Esteban Morales
August 1, 2009
The IndyCar Series was back on form at Kentucky Speedway following several mechanical and aerodynamic changes that culminated in a dramatic photo finish that saw Ed Carpenter nearly earn his first series victory. The changes included optional rear tire ramps, sidepod extensions, and wheel backing plates, as well as the mandatory removal of rear wing endfence wickers and the addition of a push to pass system, which provided drivers with twenty opportunities to use an additional five to twenty horsepower.
Before the green dropped for the start of the race, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti lined up first and second based on entrant points because qualifying was rained out. Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe started right behind the Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo while Carpenter found himself back in the fourteenth position. Dixon led most of the opening stint while Franchitti faded and ran as far back as seventh. At the front, Briscoe caught Dixon and struggled to get around him but managed to lead briefly before Dixon entered the pits on lap 52. Meanwhile, Carpenter carved his way to the fourth position before pit stops and climbed to third a few laps after his stop. When the stops cycled through, Dixon led over Briscoe, Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, and Tony Kanaan.
Dixon continued to lead incident free for a number of laps. By lap 70, however, the action began to heat up as Briscoe pressured Dixon for the lead. On lap 95 Briscoe mounted another serious challenge. One lap later the leaders had the fans on their feet as they split Ryan Hunter-Reay’s lapped car and raced wheel to wheel through the halfway mark. The leaders exchanged the lead at the line before Dixon made his second stop on lap 103. Briscoe pitted two laps later and emerged ahead of Dixon, Castroneves, and Carpenter. Lap 121 saw the only yellow flag of the race fly after smoke emitted from Justin Wilson’s Dallara due to an electrical problem. Roger Penske used the yellow to take Will Power, who was running in the ninth position, out of sequence. Power kept his Dallara on the track and assumed the lead while Briscoe led the rest of the leaders in and out of the pits.
On lap 128, Power led the field to the restart giving Carpenter the opportunity to leap into the second position. Soon after moving into second, Carpenter challenged Power for the lead. Power and Carpenter ran wheel to wheel for several laps before Power broke free and extended his lead before pitting. With Power out of the way, Carpenter led for nearly twenty laps before making his final stop. When the field cycled through the final stops of the night, Carpenter emerged with the lead ahead of Kanaan, Dixon, Briscoe, and Franchitti. With eleven laps to go, Briscoe moved into second and caught Carpenter. Briscoe and Carpenter spent the final nine laps of the race battling side by side with Briscoe on the outside line and Carpenter on the inside. Despite having used all of his push to pass opportunities before the last lap, Briscoe crossed the line .0162 of a second ahead of Carpenter. When asked what he was thinking as he crossed the finish line side by side with Carpenter, Briscoe succinctly stated, “50 points baby. That’s it.”