Never separated by more than a split second, and frequently side by side, Ryan Briscoe and Ed Carpenter battled for the final 23 laps of Saturday night’s Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway, with Briscoe prevailing at the checkers by just over 16-thousandths of a second.
It was the closest IndyCar Series finish at Kentucky and the 11th-closest finish in series history. Slowed by only one caution flag, tonight’s race was the second-fastest in series history, with an average speed of 200.893 mph. Aerodynamic rule changes implemented this weekend and the debut of a Honda “power assist” button, providing drivers with an additional 5-20 horsepower for 12 seconds with each use, resulted in an exciting 200-lap race with 23 lead changes among seven drivers.
Despite weather-related delays on both days of the race weekend, 23 drivers ran a total of 8,660 miles on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval; once again without a single engine-related failure for the Honda HI9R Indy V-8.
As the leaders made their final pit stops on Lap 177, Carpenter headed a four-car pack that included Briscoe, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon. Carpenter, who had initially taken the lead on Lap 128, first had to fend off Kanaan, with Dixon and Briscoe side by side and just behind the lead pair. But Dixon faded in the final 10 laps to an eventual seventh-place finish, while Briscoe got around Kanaan and began his attack on Carpenter.
Carpenter and Briscoe then ran side by side from Lap 192 onward, while, just tenths of a second behind, Kanaan and Helio Castroneves had their own side-by-side fight for third place. On Lap 195, Castroneves slid up out of the groove in Turn 2, dropping him to his fourth-place finishing position. Briscoe and Carpenter continued to swap the lead, each using the Honda “power assist” button to edge ahead of the other at different points on the track.
Finally, Briscoe nosed ahead for the final time coming out of Turn 4 on the last lap, to claim his second win of the 2009 season and move to the top of the drivers’ championship after 12 of 17 races. Carpenter’s second-place finish is his best IndyCar Series result in seven seasons and the best oval-track finish in the five-year history of his Vision Racing team. Kanaan’s third-place finish equals his best results of the season, at Kansas and Long Beach, while fifth place for Graham Rahal is his best result since finishing third at Richmond in June.
Next week, the IndyCar Series returns to road racing for the August 9 Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
IndyCar Series Standings (after 12 of 17 races):
1. Ryan Briscoe - 416 points (2 wins)
2. Scott Dixon - 409 (3 wins)
3. Dario Franchitti - 405 (3 wins)
4. Helio Castroneves - 341 (2 wins)
5. Danica Patrick - 309
6. Marco Andretti - 279
7. Dan Wheldon - 274
8. Tony Kanaan - 274
9. Graham Rahal - 265
10. Justin Wilson - 253 (1 win)
11. Hideki Mutoh - 237
12. Ed Carpenter - 226
Ryan Briscoe (#6 Team Penske Honda) Started 3rd, finished 1st, 2nd IndyCar win of 2009, moves to the drivers’ championship points lead: “It was great night and a fantastic race. I had a really good car tonight, I could pass with it. I thought my best chance [to win] was to run on the outside in those final laps. Ed [Carpenter] did a great job, we ran a lot of laps together side by side, and it got very racey for those last five laps or so. I found the spot on the track where I thought the [Honda power assist] button would help me the most: getting an edge on him coming off Turn 4. I used the button as much as I could, and I could tell when Ed was using it, too. It was very hard fought out there, intense. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited crossing the finish line.”
Ed Carpenter (#20 Vision Racing Honda) Started 14th, finished 2nd, career-best IndyCar result: “I’m really happy, that is our career-best finish and the team did a great job tonight. We’ve had such a tough year. It was fun to run that close to a [Team] Penske car for lap after lap and my car was handling really well. I could place it anywhere on the race track. It was good, close racing with Ryan [Briscoe]. I hope the fans enjoyed it. I kept the low line and he ran on the outside. I hit the power button for the last time on the last lap going up the back straight, but I guess he just got his nose in front of me coming out of the last turn.”
Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: “What a fantastic race! I think the series made a great call with their recent rule changes. The racing certainly seemed to benefit from them. Congratulations to both Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe and to Ed Carpenter and his Vision Racing team on giving the fans a clean and exciting race to the finish. Finally, thanks as always to our associates at HPD and technical partner Ilmor for another perfect race with the Honda Indy V-8, and the development of the power assist button, which I think also played a key role in making tonight’s race memorable.”
Fn. St. Driver / Team / Chassis / Laps / Average Speed/Notes
1. 3. Ryan Briscoe Team Penske Honda Dallara 200 200.893 mph average, led 38 laps
2. 14. Ed Carpenter Vision Racing Honda Dallara 200 - 0.0162 seconds, led 35 laps
3. 9. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 200 - 0,1614 seconds, led 1 lap
4. 4. Helio Castroneves Team Penske Honda Dallara 200 - 0.2728 seconds, led 1 lap
5. 10. Graham Rahal Newman Haas Lanigan Honda Dallara 200 - 0.6346 seconds
6. 2. Dario Franchitti Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 200 - 1.7670 seconds
7. 1. Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 200 - 3.2512 seconds, led 94 laps
8. 5. Danica Patrick Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 200 - 4.7231 seconds, led 1 lap
9. 20. Will Power Team Penske Honda Dallara 200 - 6.1424 seconds, led 30 laps
10. 6. Marco Andretti Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 200 - 6.9963 seconds
11. 7. Dan Wheldon Panther Racing Honda Dallara 200 -12.7597 seconds
12. 22. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher Racing Honda Dallara 200 -27.9705 seconds
13. 11. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 200 -27.9705 seconds
14. 17. Ryan Hunter-Reay A.J. Foyt Racing Honda Dallara 197 Running
15. 18. E.J. Viso HVM Racing Honda Dallara 197 Running
16. 13. Raphael Matos-R Luczo Dragon Racing Honda Dallara 196 Running
17. 19. Mike Conway-R Dreyer & Reinbold Honda Dallara 192 Running
18. 16. Mario Moraes KV Racing Technology Honda Dallara 188 Running
19. 12. Robert Doornbos-R Newman Haas Lanigan Honda Dallara 185 Running
20. 15. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold Honda Dallara 165 Running (delayed)
21. 8. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing Honda Dallara 119 Did not finish - wheel bearing
22. 23. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold Honda Dallara 59 Did not finish - handling
23. 21. Jaques Lazier Curb/Agajanian/3G Honda Dallara 43 Did not finish - water leak
R - IndyCar Series Rookie