Despite coming up 17 points short of overhauling Scott Dixon for the IndyCar Series title, Helio Castroneves paid tribute to his Penske team for giving him the chance to challenge in the final round.
The Brazilian made his job harder by repeatedly running below the white line during qualifying, which resulted in him being sent to the back of the field for the start of the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, but carved his way through the 28-car pack to lead most laps and go head-to-head with his rival over the last few laps.
The race ended up being decided by the second-closest margin in series' history, and there was a modicum of confusion over which car had actually crossed the line first. Eventually, even after Dixon had been wheeled into Winner's Circle, it was confirmed that Castroneves had indeed completed his rise from the rear by pipping the Kiwi by 0.0033secs.
"When I looked, I thought I won," the Brazilian claimed, "But that was very close, guys. Darn it, whew. Second closest is close enough for me.
"He was trying to do everything to keep me behind, but I have to say I saw some stuff back there that was worse than what he did. I was just trying to make sure that I kept out of trouble. With five or six laps to go, you're going to go for it. Everybody's trying everything they can, but I was able to pull alongside [on the last lap] and said to myself 'okay, now we got to do what we got to do'. It was a lot of fun.
"I wasn't quite understanding [what happened on the final restart]. I thought Scott was a little bit slow-paced, and kept weaving a little bit, warming his tyres, which I understand you're not allowed to do. I was just trying to stay away from him, in case he would slow down and clip my nose, if I would hit him, spin out, you know. It would be like a big mess. They kept saying I have to be nose-to-tail but I was just trying to stay a little bit away from him, as close as possible, to make sure nothing would go wrong."
Finding himself in unfamiliar territory as he attempted to make his way through the field on the fast-paced 1.5-mile oval, Castroneves was pleased to find a pack willing to race cleanly.
"It was good," he confirmed, "At the beginning, I was just trying to make sure I kept cool. I didn't want to have any problems. Looking at the files from last year, lap 35 is when the first yellow happened - I'm not sure what lap it was this race, but I knew everybody would stay cool."
With remarkable symmetry, the first caution of the 2008 finale came on lap 37, when the otherwise impressive Ed Carpenter was pitched into the wall by a mechanical failure, but Castroneves was not prepared to let anything interrupt his progress towards the front.