Three Championships on the Line at SpeedJam

October 8, 2009 Updated: October 7, 2009

Ryan Briscoe hopes to wrest the championship from Scott Dixon at the Indy Firestone 300 at SpeedJam. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Ryan Briscoe hopes to wrest the championship from Scott Dixon at the Indy Firestone 300 at SpeedJam. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Three different racing series titles—the IRL IndyCar championship, the Grand Am Daytona Prototype  and Grand Am Grand Touring championships, will be decided on October tenth at Homestead-Miami Speedway’s SpeedJam® weekend.

SpeedJam is a two-day, multi-series racing event. The final race of three different series will be run over the two days, involving open-wheel single-seaters, touring cars, and sports-racing cars. SpeedJam features three races—Indy Lights on Friday, and Grand Am and IndyCar on Saturday. With the various practice and qualifying sessions, fans will be treated to non-stop action throughout the two days.

Memo Rojas, in the #01 Telmex/Ganassi Lexus-Riley, leads the #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Pontiac-Riley and the #10 SunTrust Dallara-Ford during the Rolex Grand-Am Brumos Porsche 250, July 4, 2009. (John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Memo Rojas, in the #01 Telmex/Ganassi Lexus-Riley, leads the #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Pontiac-Riley and the #10 SunTrust Dallara-Ford during the Rolex Grand-Am Brumos Porsche 250, July 4, 2009. (John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Friday’s Indy Lights race will not decide the series championship. J.R. Hildebrand Jr. won that at Chicagoland on August 29. Still, the race promises to be very competitive. Indy Lights is the training ground for IndyCar, and with all the Indy teams there watching, the Indy Lights drivers will be out to make an impression and hopefully earn contracts for the 2010 season.

The Pontiac Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty lead in the points and hope to stay there. (Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
The Pontiac Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty lead in the points and hope to stay there. (Brian Cleary/Getty Images)

Grand Am: Two Races in One

Saturday’s first race, the Grand Am Grand Prix of Miami, encompasses two classes. Daytona Prototypes, sleek, closed-cockpit pure racing cars, will share the track with Grand Touring cars, modified versions of street automobiles like the Pontiac GXP, Porsche 911, and Mazda MX8. Part of the challenge of sports car racing is the mix of faster and slower cars on the track, and the need to negotiate traffic.

Scott Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas  will have their hands full trying to defend their championship. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Scott Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas will have their hands full trying to defend their championship. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Three teams will be battling for the DP championship: Gainsco/Bob Stallings leads with 309 points, followed by SunTrust in second with 301 points, and Telmex/Ganassi with 299. With a win worth 32 points and each successive place worth two points less, the Gainsco/Stallings car would have to finish fifth to lose. But this is not impossible; both the SunTrust and Telmex/Ganassi teams will be willing to risk a lot to win the championship.

Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty drive the Gainsco car; Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, the Telmex/Ganassi. Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle will be behind the wheel of the SunTrust entry.

It is sometimes said in racing, “The second-place finisher is the first loser.” The Telemex/Ganassi and SunTrust teams won’t be holding back, racing for points. They will be pushing hard and taking chances. Also, the Verizon Penske Porsche will be going all out, trying for its first win of the season. If the Gainsco/Stallings team relaxes, it could find itself just a little too far back.

The #10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara leads #01 Telmex Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley during the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 25, 2009 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)
The #10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara leads #01 Telmex Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley during the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 25, 2009 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

Gurney and Fogarty won the 2007 title, but Pruett and Rojas took it away in 2008; the Ganassi drivers want to defend, while the Gainsco team wants the crown back. Angelelli won the title in 2005, but not since, while Brian Frisselle has never been part of a championship team. So SunTrust will be giving its all for that title. The racing promises to be all-out, non-stop.

Ryan Briscoe needs a win to clinch the championship, but he also needs someone besides Scott Dixon to set pole or lead the most laps. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Ryan Briscoe needs a win to clinch the championship, but he also needs someone besides Scott Dixon to set pole or lead the most laps. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

At the same time as the prototypes are battling it out for their championship, the Farsnbacher Loles Porsche will by fighting for the GT title. Farnsbacher Loles driver Dirk Werner could have cliched the GT title at the Utah 250, but he let his competitive nature take control, and rammed the class-leading Stevenson Racing Pontiac, wrecking both cars.

Werner and co-driver Leh Keen will be out for redemption, but Werner has made it clear that he wants to win the championship with a race win, not by finishing somewhere back in the pack. Will he be able to throttle back his aggression this time?

Scott Dixon leads team mate Dario Franchitti during the IndyCar Series Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 Mile on September 19, 2009. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Scott Dixon leads team mate Dario Franchitti during the IndyCar Series Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 Mile on September 19, 2009. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

IRL Indycar: Can Dixon Defend?

SpeedJam closes with the IRL Firestone Indy 300, where IndyCar’s fastest drivers will be racing the continent’s fastest open-wheel cars for the 2009 season championship. The Indy cars will be racing on Homestead’s 1.5–mile banked oval, at speeds exceeding 210 mph.

Penske driver Ryan Brisoce had the title locked up at the Indy Japan 300, but the tension got to him and he crashed on pit lane, under yellow, with no one around him, throwing away the win. His nearest rivals, Target/Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, are only eight and five points ahead.

(L-R) Helio Castroneves, battles Scott Dixon while Ryan Briscoe runs third, in the final laps of the 2008 season finale at Chicagoland. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
(L-R) Helio Castroneves, battles Scott Dixon while Ryan Briscoe runs third, in the final laps of the 2008 season finale at Chicagoland. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Briscoe needs to win the race to win the championship, and after his error in Japan, it is sure he will be pushing himself to the limit. Defending champion Scott Dixon can repeat even if he finishes second, so long as he wins the three bonus points for winning the pole and leading the most laps in the race. But he certainly will not be leaving it to chance; count on him racing for the win.

Dixon’s teammate Dario Franchitti is second, only five points behind. A win would give him the title, unless Dixon finished second and took the bonus points. But Franchitti has shown the speed to win the pole four times this season, twice as often as Dixon, and Franchitti has four wins to Dixon’s five.

The two could not be more closely matched. And, as they showed at Japan and throughout the season, there are no team orders; neither driver has been instructed to back off and let the other go. If these two find themselves at the front, they will be fighting it out until the checkered flag waves.

Perfect End to Three Great Seasons

Homestead-Miami Speedway couldn’t know for certain that SpeedJam would decide three championships, but it was a pretty safe bet.

Last year’s IRL championship was won at the last race of the season. Helio Castroneves came from 28th place to win the race by inches ahead of Scott Dixon, but Dixon’s second-place finish earned him the points he needed to clinch the title.

The 2008 Grand Am Daytona Prototype title was also wrapped up in the final race of that season, as Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas had enough points to win with ninth-place finish. This year’s championship is much closer.

Max Angelelli in the SunTrust and Fogarty and Gurney in the Gainsco Stallings car finished second and third in 2008.

Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, in the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, won the the GT championship at the same race. 

SpeedJam fans will be treated to the best that racing has to offer: a variety of cars and classes, both oval and road courses, and three separate champiohsip battles being fought out in one day. Hollywood's best writers couldn't devise a better script. 

On top of that, the early Fall weather in Florida promises to be perfect: warm and sunny, with no rain in sight. The racing teams have the best possible stage upon which to play out the climactic final act of their  seasons.

For ticket information please visit the Homestead-Miami Speedway Web site.