Honda Racing / IZOD IndyCar Series / RacingLine
Year of the Kiwi
It was a runaway. Then, it got interesting. Then, it came down to the final race. Again.
That was a condensed version of the 2008 IndyCar Series season that saw Scott Dixon secure his second championship and first Indianapolis 500 victory in a dominant campaign that included a record-tying six race wins, six poles, 899 laps led and only two finishes out of the top five.
"I don't think you could ask for a better year, but Helio [Castroneves] still made us sweat," said Dixon, whose IndyCar crowns have both come for Target/Ganassi Racing. "It was fun and I had a great race car all season.
"But, it got a little too close at the end."
Following Dixon's victory at Kentucky, he owned a 78-point lead with three races remaining. But, by the time the green flag flew for the finale at Chicago, Castroneves trailed by only 30 points.
And those two staged a great show on the banked, 1.5-mile speedway, taking the checkered flag virtually side-by-side before Castroneves was finally announced as the winner following a review of the race finish.
"We did all we could, and most years, this would have been good enough to be champion," said Castroneves, who compiled two wins and eight second places for Team Penske. "But Scott had one of those unbelievable years."
Besides the unification of open-wheel racing after 12 years, the other major stories of 2008 were Danica Patrick finally getting her initial IndyCar win at Motegi, Japan, and rookie Graham Rahal winning in his IRL debut at St. Petersburg. Rahal's teammate, Justin Wilson, also earned a victory at Detroit, the final triumph for late Newman Haas Lanigan team co-owner Paul Newman, and Ryan Hunter-Reay was victorious at Watkins Glen.