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MOTOR RACING ROUNDUP

Dixon wins IndyCar title

September 08, 2008|From the Associated Press

For nearly two hours Sunday afternoon, Helio Castroneves did everything in his power to deprive Scott Dixon of a second IndyCar Series championship.

The determined Brazilian came from last place to lead the most laps and win the PEAK Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., in a photo finish -- and it wasn't enough.

The 28-year-old Dixon, driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, held a seemingly insurmountable 78-point lead heading into the last three races of the season. But Castroneves put on a late-season charge that included both of his 2008 race wins and put a definite scare into the New Zealander.

"I think we set our minds on having [the championship] tied up a long time before now, and I think that's what ran us into a bit of trouble," Dixon said.

Castroneves won the race in the second-closest finish in the history of the IndyCar Series, winning by 0.0033 of a second, which translates to 12 1/8 inches. It was so close that Dixon was initially declared the winner and went to Victory Circle before race officials studied photos of the finish and gave the win to Castroneves.

Only former Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr.'s 0.0024 of a second win over Al Unser Jr. in 2002 on this same track has been closer in the 13-year history of IndyCar.

Dixon knew coming in that he had to finish only eighth or better Sunday to win the title and, after struggling in the middle portion of the race, he left no doubt at the end about the championship. He came into the race with a 30-point lead and wound up winning the title and the $1-million bonus that goes with it by 17 points.

Castroneves, who earned a three-point bonus by leading a race-high 80 laps, was excited after being told he won the race when he got out of his car.

"I knew I won it, I knew," he said. "We try everything, everything, to win. We did everything we could."

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Felipe Massa was declared the winner of the Belgian Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton was penalized for cutting a corner during a late duel with world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton crossed the line 14.4 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Massa in a dramatic finish that saw Raikkonen crash into a barrier, but the McLaren driver was penalized 25 seconds for an illegal maneuver.

Race stewards said in a statement that Hamilton "cut the chicane and gained an advantage" that allowed him to take the lead from Raikkonen in the rain-splashed finale at Spa-Francorchamps.

The penalty demoted Hamilton to third, with BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld promoted to second.

McLaren could not immediately appeal the results but decided to launch a complaint with the sport's international court of appeal. It was unclear when it would be heard.

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