Scotland's Dario Franchitti is the 2007 Indycar Series champion after winning the season ending Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 at Chicagoland in the most dramatic way possible.
For 199 and three-quarters of the 200 laps around the flat-out 1.5-mile Chicagoland oval the 2007 Championship seemed to be heading to New Zealand as Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon kept his nose ahead of the current Indy 500 champion.
But in a race that contained many twists and turns, fittingly the season boiled down to a two-lap, two-way battle for the win and the series title between Dixon and Franchitti with the rest of the field all at least one lap down.
Following Danica Patrick's spin entering pit road on lap 193 race leader Dixon and Franchitti found themselves as the only lead lap cars, having also used the yellow flags to their collective advantage when Vitor Meira crashed on lap 135.
But even without the help of his teammate Dan Wheldon, who had been the dutiful rear gunner for Dixon most of the day the Kiwi looked in control having hugged the low line from the word go while Franchitti struggled to get his Andretti-Green Racing entry to work around the high groove.
The final green flag of the race, and the season, waved at the start of lap 199, leaving just two laps and three miles to decide the season crown. Dixon led from Franchitti with the two Marlboro Team Penske entries of Sam Hornish Jr and Helio Castroneves directly behind, if a lap down after making their respective final stops for fuel in the laps leading up to Patrick's spin.
Franchitti got a good restart and briefly drew alongside Dixon on the high line but had to fall back into line as the white flag waved. Going down the back straight Franchitti caught a good draft off the back of Dixon's car and moved high going into turn three. Then, just as Franchitti got his front wheels in line with Dixon's rears Dixon suddenly jinked and slowed. Having milliseconds to react Franchitti went up the racetrack into the third groove and was through as he came off turn four.
From being just a few hundred metres away from losing the series title Franchitti was champion less than ten seconds after Dixon's fuel tank had cried enough marking his first major open wheel title and banishing the memories of his two mid season flips and his late race clash with teammate Marco Andretti at the Infineon Raceway last month.
In typical Franchitti style the Edinburgh born driver was gracious in victory with Dixon almost inconsolable in defeat and while the Ganassi crew now have a long winter to regroup and come back fighting next year, Franchitti will have to make a decision on his future not long after the championship party hangover has worn off with rumours of a switch to NASCAR rife, ironically with the Ganassi team.
At the start of the race it was actually Hornish and Castroneves who appeared to have the strongest cars as they swept around poleman Franchitti on the opening lap while Tony Kanaan's slim title hopes all but evaporated on lap 17 when he had a right rear puncture and was forced to pit. Although Kanaan would work his way back onto the lead lap thanks to his enforced alternative pit strategy, he would never be able to offer the same kind of support to Franchitti that Wheldon was to Dixon.
From sixth on the grid it took Dixon a little over 20 laps to pass Franchitti on the track for what was then fourth place behind the two Penske entries and Wheldon before the first of three caution periods waved for Marco Andretti's single car crash in turn four on lap 34.
Andretti's crash triggered the first round of scheduled pitstops for everyone bar Kanaan and it was Castroneves who emerged in front with Dixon briefly moving into second before Hornish Jr passed both drivers to reclaim the lead.
With the race returning to another long green flag run it was clear that Franchitti had a tough job on his hands with Wheldon protecting the high line for Dixon while Franchitti had to make do with some questionable help from Danica Patrick who, at one point passed the Scotsman in a move that briefly caused him to lose touch with the lead draft.
But Dario worked his way back in front of his teammate in fifth position, which is where he stayed through the next round of green flag pitstops shortly before half distance.
Franchitti's first real stroke of luck came on lap 135 when Meira crashed in turn four just three laps after Hornish and Castroneves had made their third stops and whilst Dixon and Wheldon were actually on pit road. With better fuel mileage than his rivals Franchitti suddenly found himself leading while Dixon just managed to beat the pace car off pit road to take second place.
That second place became first when Franchitti then made his stop under safety car conditions and as the caution period extended while track officials tended to some damaged SAFER barriers both title contenders used the fact that everyone else was on the tail of the lead lap to make an extra stop for fuel a lap before green flag racing resumed.
That stop would prove critical but whereas Franchitti's crew were able to put enough fuel in to see Franchitti to the finish, Dixon's crew were not.
When green flag racing resumed Hornish Jr, one of many beneficiaries of a 'wave around' behind the pace car, was again able to bypass both title duellists to take the lead as the top eight cars broke away from the remaining pack.
On lap 183 Hornish Jr and Castroneves gave up first and fourth places respectively for their final stops as Wheldon rather surprisingly took the lead from Dixon. But on lap 193 Wheldon's car ran dry and the Englishman was forced to coast to a halt, leaving Dixon leading from Franchitti, Patrick and Scott Sharp with all bar the two title contenders planning on making an extra stop in the waning laps.
For Patrick that stop was set to come on lap 194 but as she tried to get her car slowed onto pit road she spun and stalled, bringing out the safety car and trapping everyone except Dixon and Franchitti a lap down. Although Patrick was furious, it transpired that without that spin both Franchitti and Dixon would also have had to stop, a situation that would have made it all but impossible for Franchitti to pass Dixon and take the championship.
The final two laps will undoubtedly be seen many times over as an example of a truly heart-stopping championship finale with Franchitti eventually crossing the line nearly two seconds ahead of a coasting Dixon and Hornish just pipping his teammate and Sharp for the final podium position.
Kanaan rallied to finish sixth and was the first person to congratulate Franchitti in the hastily assembled victory lane while Ryan Hunter-Reay unofficially claimed the rookie of the year award despite only contesting a handful of late season races thanks to a strong run to seventh.
Series debutant Hideki Mutoh was easily the strongest of the three Panther Racing entries as he finished eighth although Indycar officials will more than likely have a quiet word in the young Japanese drivers ear after he waged a vicious battle with Patrick despite being a lap down at the time.
Buddy Rice and AJ Foyt IV completed the top ten with Patrick eventually classified eleventh, Sarah Fisher 12th, Wheldon 13th, Marty Roth 14th and Milka Duno 15th.
In addition to crash victims Andretti and Meira the season ended on a low note for Vision Racing teammates Tomas Scheckter and Ed Carpenter who both suffered mechanical problems as did AJ Foyt Racing's Darren Manning, the returning PJ Chesson and Kosuke Matsuura.