Left to right-Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti

Story by Jeff Kluss: (Sunday August 10, 2008 ) The Meijer 300 IRL spectacle at Kentucky Speedway was another great show on the schedule. Scott Dixon passed Helio Castroneves on the final turn to bring home another win. Helio posted his 7th second place finish of the Season and still no wins. Marco Andretti turned in a 3rd place finish for Andretti-Green Racing after starting 9th in the lineup.

In spite of a wreck in practice on Friday, Danica Patrick still managed to post an 11th place finish.

As usual, if you missed this one you missed out on a great event and a special facility. The IRL knows how to put on a gem of a show, and in partnership with Kentucky Speedway had the crowd screaming for joy. Even though the event was a sell-out and sold another 2,000 standing room only tickets, there was only about 40 thousand fans in attendance. The only real explanation for the 73 thousand seat facility having lighter attendance than the number of tickets sold would be the corporate participation and purchase of tickets. But considering the gate, it was still a great show for all that attended.

Helio Castroneves at pre-race placed second

Scott Dixon now commands a 78 point series lead with only three races remaining. “Obviously a 78-point lead is pretty healthy, but we’re going to have to still try to gain points on Helio,” Dixon said. “We need an 82-point lead to have it sewn up after (the next race at) Sonoma. That would be nice, but in all reality I think we’ll be battling for the championship to the last race.”

Scott Dixon on the back-stretch

With only 7 laps remaining in the race, Dixon had to make a pit stop for a splash of fuel which kept all on the edge of their seats. This unplanned stop put Dixon behind Helio Castroneves #3 car by six seconds. In a gamble by the Penske Team, they had decided not to fuel after their last stop 57 laps from the finish. Then in the final lap on turn 3, Helio’s car lost fuel pressure, and Dixon took the advantage.

Helio Castroneves passing A. J. Foyt IV

“At that point, I saw the lights on the dash and they were all lit,” Castroneves said. “The fuel meter was off a little bit, but it wasn’t off so far that I expected to get to the finish line first.”The car misfired,” Castroneves said. “If you keep your foot on the throttle, the engine won’t respond because it’s trying to suck more fuel and there’s nothing there. What you try to do is lift a little bit to make sure you keep some revs. That’s what I did. When it coughed, I kept trying to step on and off to see if I could get more fuel. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. We took a chance,” Castroneves said. “I still can’t believe how close we were. We were just a few hundred yards short.”

Roger Penske on Pit Road had Helio Castroneves coming in 2nd and Ryan Brisco finishing 7th

Ryan Briscoe finished 7th

Ed Carpenter left on Pit Road getting ready.

Above Carpenter passing Hideki Mutoh

Ed Carpenter’s crew rolls out the car on Pit Road

In response to the Castroneves fuel problem Dixon stated, “They said there were a few guys who had gone on an alternate strategy. They were fighting pretty hard. I didn’t think coming out from this that we had enough to win. It definitely took him (Castroneves) having a problem with fuel in order for us to win it.” Dixon said. “Coming through Turns 3 and 4 and watching Helio run out of fuel with a few hundred feet to go was pretty special. I must say it’s nice to be in that position.”

Marco Andretti on the back stretch on lap 147

Marco Andretti had a great race that saw him battling Scott Dixon and Vitor Meira for the lead through the second half. Andretti led 38 laps and then fell to second place on lap 98. “We’ve got to start capitalizing when we have cars that can win races,” Andretti lamented. “Dixon had a bit of speed on us, but I think we had a better car in traffic. It was between him and I to win the race, and it’s just unfortunate that we didn’t.”

With only 12 laps left in the race, Andretti and Meira had to stop for a splash of fuel and Andretti emerged before Meira on the exit from Pit Road. “My car was just a little too loose on the last stint to make the move,” Meira said. “We planned on it cooling down late in the race, and we knew we would be in the money on the last 50 laps.”

Dan Wheldon finished 5th in spite of the question of Chip Ganasi’s failed attempt to hire Tony Kanaan earlier in the week as a possible replacement. “We lost a lot of spots in the pits on that last stop,” Wheldon said. “It is difficult to get them back.”

Milka Duno had the only serious incident of the night, emerging unhurt after a mechanical failure on the No. 23 sent it into the wall. It appeared that on turn 2 that a blown right side tire was what put the car into the wall and finishing up on the back-stretch infield. “I was just turning and the car went straight into the wall,” Duno said.

Duno immediately after hitting the wall in turn 2, then in the infield, and then being assisted.

 Finishing Position
                Driver                    Team                                   Time                      Started
 1.  Scott Dixon                      Ganassi                                  1:36:42.3467          1
 2.  Helio Castroneves            Penske                                   +  0.5532               6
 3.  Marco Andretti                Andretti Green                       +  0.5707                9
 4.  Vitor Meira                      Panther                                  +  0.9102                2
 5.  Dan Wheldon                   Ganassi                                  + 2.1472                 3
 6.  Ed Carpenter                   Vision                                    +  5.9531                8
 7.  Ryan Briscoe                    Penske                                   +  6.2271               5
 8.  Tony Kanaan                   Andretti Green                       +  7.0932                7
 9.  Ryan Hunter-Reay            Rahal Letterman                    +10.9526                14
10.  Buddy Rice                     Dreyer & Reinbold                +21.6858                15
11.  Danica Patrick                 Andretti Green                      +1 lap                      26
12.  Oriol Servia                     KV                                        +1 lap                     12
13.  E.J. Viso                         HVM                                     +2 laps                    21
14.  Bruno Junqueira              Dale Coyne                            +2 laps                    25
15.  Sarah Fisher                    Fisher                                     +2 laps                   16
16.  Jaime Camara                 Conquest                               +3 laps                    22
17.  Mario Moraes                 Dale Coyne                            +5 laps                   23
18.  Hideki Mutoh                  Andretti Green                       +43 laps                  4
19.  Darren Manning              Foyt                                       +53 laps                  17
20.  A.J. Foyt IV                    Vision                                    +64 laps                  10
21.  Milka Duno                     Dreyer & Reinbold                 +70 laps                 18
22.  Enrique Bernoldi              Conquest                               +76 laps                  24
23.  Marty Roth                     Roth                                       +102 laps                11
24.  Justin Wilson                   Newman/Haas/Lanigan           +118 laps                19
25.  Graham Rahal                 Newman/Haas/Lanigan           +172 laps                20
26.  Will Power                      KV                                        +195 laps                13