Wheldon Windy City Winner

JOLIET, Ill. - It wasn't enough to clinch the series championship, but Dan Wheldon was all but crowned king of the IRL on Sunday.

Wheldon held off Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish, Jr. at the finish line to win the Indy Racing League PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

It was a series-record sixth win for the Andrett-Green Racing driver who just needs to show up at the season's final two races at Watkins Glen and Fontana to earn this year's title.

In another typical close Chicagoland finish, Wheldon outran Castroneves and Hornish, Jr. to the checkered flag to win by a mere 0.0133 of a second. It was the eighth closest finish in series history.

"It was just an incredible day today," said Wheldon, who averaged 169.160 mph and led 88 laps. He now has a 102-point lead in the point standings over defending series champion Kanaan.

"The Andretti-Green Team is outstanding. But I want to take a moment and remember the people who were devastated by Hurricane Katrina and of course we remember September 11th and what happened four years ago today. This win is great but my thoughts are on those two things very much as well."

Tomas Scheckter was fourth with Wheldon's AGR teammate Tony Kaaan fifth.

Rookie Danica Patrick, who started the race from the pole, was sixth. But she was involved in a late race controversy.

Patrick passed two cars on the race's final restart with only four laps to go, but did so before the green flag had officially been displayed. IRL officials radioed to Patrick to drop back two spots, which she did, but not before causing a major traffic snarl with the lead pack including Kanaan.

While no contact between any cars took place, Kanaan was not happy with the move and called Patrick an "idiot" after the race.

"There were a lot of guys I could call idiots today," Patrick said. "There's a lot going on out there and people are moving all over the place and sometimes stuff happens that you don't intend to. I thought there was a chance to win after the cars got bunched up because I was 20 feet away from the lead opposed to 200 feet."

The race was marred by a spectacular and frightening accident on lap 21 when rookie Ryan Briscoe ran over the car of Alex Barron and was sent airborne into the fence around the third and fourth turns.

Briscoe's car went into the fence in a ball of flames and was severed in two before coming back down on the race track.

Remarkably, Briscoe was airlifted to Christ Hospital in Oaklawn, Ill., complaining of back pain, but with no broken bones or lacerations.

It ended a miserable weekend for Briscoe, who though he'd won the pole on Saturday only to be disqualified for running a rear wing that measured too large in inspection. Rather than start in the top spot, the rookie was forced to take the green flag from the 23rd and last starting position.

A red flag was displayed for nearly twenty minutes while officials cleaned-up the debris spewed across the track and fixed the hole Briscoe's car punched into the fence.

The delay was the IRL's first red flag since rain stopped the 2004 Indianapolis 500.

"I felt a bump from the left rear of my car," Barron said. "Ryan was up over me. He was upside down and there was a lot of fire. It was just a quick thud."

Vitor Meira, Scott Sharp, Patrick Carpentier and Buddy Lazier completed the first ten finishers.

A crowd estimated at 45,000 was on hand for the IRL's fifth appearance at Chicagoland Speedway.

The IndyCar Series now heads to the famed Watkins Glen International Raceway on September 25th, the first time Indy Cars have raced at the historic road course in more than 25 years.

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