Round up 20-plus IndyCar Series drivers for an informal and anonymous survey at the mid-point of the season and naturally you'll receive nearly as many responses to each question. There was a sole exception this year, however.

When asked whether the championship chase would go down to the wire, the answer was a unanimous and resounding 'yes' - which only makes sense. With a tight points race through nine of the 17 events, and the past three driver titles being decided in the season finale, all indications point to another showdown on 10 October at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"Without a doubt; it has been too competitive for it not to be," said Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal, who's among the six pole winners so far this season, but still trails in the points race. Reigning series champion Scott Dixon claimed frontrunner status with a third-place finish at Watkins Glen last weekend, and is 19 points clear of Target Chip Ganassi team-mate Dario Franchitti and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe heading to the Honda Indy Toronto.

While tenuous, the margin is the largest of the season between first and second overall - after seven of the nine races, it had been ten or less - while Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, a two-time winner despite missing round one, and Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick are both within 75 points, with a victory earning 50 points. Four different drivers have held the top spot, with only Briscoe maintaining it after two consecutive races.

"For me, it's exciting to be in this title hunt," the Australian, who has a victory and four runner-up finishes to date, admitted, "It's going to be a tough one. It's going to go right down to the wire, but it's great. We're racing with a bunch of very good drivers and it's a lot of fun."

The remainder of the schedule is split down the middle between street/road courses and 1.5-mile ovals, with the first half of the year - comprising three street/road circuits, two 1.5-mile ovals, the Indianapolis 500 over a 2.5-mile oval and three races on ovals of one mile or less - providing five different winners.

"All of us are sort of looking at the championship so far and saying 'man, if that didn't happen here, if that didn't happen there, I could have had a big lead at the moment','' Briscoe continued, "But it is very close. Scott's got a bit of a lead at the moment, but it's pretty small for where we are in the championship."

Six drivers who led at the season's mid-point in the past have gone on to claim the title, including Dixon and Franchitti in the last two years. Dixon held off Castroneves' charge to win by 17 points in 2008, while Franchitti, driving for Andretti Green Racing in 2007, edged Dixon by 13 points in a championship chase that went down to the final corner.

Pressed to choose a potential champion for 2009, the majority went for Dixon, with no 'dark horse' nominated to topple the likely candidates, four of whom was the general consensus to be involved in the title race.

Among the other questions put to the current field were nominations for biggest surprise and disappointment of the season so far, with KVRT's Mario Moraes taking the dormer and AGR's Tony Kanaan the latter. The Brazilian's team-mate Hideki Mutoh was tipped as the next first time winner, while Watkins Glen winner Justin Wilson was most people's tip to surprise in the second half.


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