If the IZOD IndyCar Series and Chicagoland Speedway are going their separate ways after 10 years, the series certainly went out with a bang.
In front of a late-arriving crowd, Dario Franchitti held off Dan Wheldon over a frantic 21-lap sprint to the finish of the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil 300, with the Target Chip Ganassi driver holding off the National Guard driver by just .042 of a second, roughly half a car length.
It was the second time Franchitti and Wheldon went 1-2 in the 2010 IndyCar season, the last being three months ago down I-65, when Franchitti conserved fuel and tires to hold off Wheldon in the closing laps of the Indianapolis 500. With Marco Andretti finishing third after holding the high line around the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway, the 1-2-3 finishing order was the exact same as at Indianapolis.
Once again, it was Franchitti who proved that he is the best in the IZOD IndyCar Series at preserving his equipment, as the Scotsman jumped from 10th to first in the pits by not taking tires during his stop on Lap 177. The move was necessary for Franchitti, as he trailed series points leader Will Power throughout the race.
Jumping to the front of the field, the only question was whether Franchitti would be able to hold off a group of nine cars behind him, as the positions between two and 10 jostled over the last 20 laps. Power and Wheldon traded second place over the next 15 laps following the Lap 177 restart.
However, in the race to get out of the pits quickly, Power did not get enough fuel in his car, forcing the Australian into a late pit stop and handing Franchitti valuable points when he took the checkered flags for the third time 2010 and 26th time of his career. Franchitti, who rolled into Joliet, Ill., trailing by 59 points, stands 23 points behind Power with three races remaning - all on 1.5-mile ovals similar to Chicagoland.
A blistering pace throughout the night meant drivers were routinely pushing 217 mph, with the top 13 drivers separated by just one second at the end of the night.
While the finish was just outside the top 10 closest finishes in IZOD IndyCar Series history, it was another thrilling chapter in the 10-year history of Chicagoland Speedway. Originally built in partnership from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the International Speedway Corp.-track has given no indications that it will bring the open-wheel series back in 2011 after shifting around its schedule, even though Chicagoland has provided the series with five of the 10 closest finishes in series history before this evening.
Regardless, the IZOD IndyCar Series delivered at Chicagoland once again, providing the kind of racing that fans will remember even if the cars are not turning laps in Joliet in 2011.