The IndyCar Series champion will be crowned at Chicagoland Speedway for the third consecutive season as Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves take their increasingly close battle down to the wire on Sunday.
Dixon leads the standings by a seemingly impenetrable 30 points but, as Castroneves has shown in the last two races, he is far from giving up on his dream of a first title, having slashed the Kiwi's advantage from 78 just two races ago.
Neither driver has won at the 1.5-mile oval, but Dixon has finished second three times in five starts there, including last year's finale, when he ran out of fuel in the final turn of the final lap, allowing recently-confirmed 2009 team-mate Dario Franchitti to slide by and take the crown. Castroneves, meanwhile, has three consecutive top-four finishes at Chicagoland, including a second place in 2005, but his average finish in six starts is 7.3, while Dixon, over the same number of events, can boast a marginally better record of 6.4.
Too close to call? Maybe, but Dixon will point to his dominance on 1.5-mile ovals this season, having Dixon has built his lead in the championship with a record-tying six victories, including wins from the pole on the 1.5-mile ovals at Homestead-Miami, Texas and Kentucky. He also finished third on the 1.5-mile ovals at Motegi and Kansas and, over those five races, has led 522 of 1028 laps a shade over fifty per cent.
"I think Chicago's going to be very tough," the Ganassi man insisted, "It's a tough circuit - one of those that provide great racing - and is definitely nail-biting for a championship race, which is exactly what the fans want and everybody that's watching. I guess they'll definitely get that.
"I think, for me, it's been a mixed bag in [terms] of how we've done there and things like that. To never have won there is definitely frustrating, so we're hoping that we can definitely turn that around this weekend. But there's a lot of other people that are going to be trying to do the same thing.
"The mile-and-a-half ovals throughout this year have been very tough, with almost ten more cars on the track than we had last year. If you make any little mistake, it makes it that much worse, so we still have to finish extremely well. But I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait to get there."
Castroneves has dogged the Kiwi all season, cutting 48 points from his deficit in the past two races despite losing his primary car - and his favourite seat - to a transporter fire ahead of the Infineon Raceway round two weekends ago. The Brazilian is the only driver with 14 top-five finishes in the season's first 16 races, but only earned his first victory of 2008 at Infineon, as his Penske team bounced back from adversity in eh best possible fashion. Including last weekend in Detroit, he also has a record eight second-place finishes, which have gone a long way to keeping him in touch with Dixon.
"I still think we've got a sizable lead," Dixon claimed, "It's definitely a lot better than last year's situation, where we went in trailing by about three points. Having a 30-point lead, Helio has to win the race, get most laps led, while we have to finish eighth or worse for him to win it. It's a lot for him to do.