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In light of the unofficial 2008 finale being a few days away, I'm want to take look back at what went on in the 2008 IndyCar season. It was definitely a year that tried to push the American Open Wheel sport forward, if for nothing else but unification.
Of the seventeen races this season, these five are the ones that struck me as the most intriguing and exciting. I will not be taking historical significance into account, so don't expect to see Danica's win at Motegi here - the shock of the last three laps is all the was interesting there.
5. RichmondWas this race a crashfest? A war of attrition? Absolutely. Every once and a while I like seeing these kinds of races to shake things up. The ultimate shakeup though came when Jaime Camara, pitiful at every other start of the season, pushed to the front and took the lead with during a caution. But then, he kept it. Despite having Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti on his tail, he held onto the lead and battled up front in a Conquest. When Camara crashed on lap 217, it was a devastating blow. I only felt so bad when seeing a car all crashed up at Indy when it happened to Sarah Fisher. It's rather unfortunate for Jaime that he was unable to show this kind of form at any other race that season, but it made for some interesting racing. 4. Milwaukee The Milwaukee Mile was the first race when the gap seemed to close between IRL teams and ex-Champ Car ones. The low banked nature of the Mile gave us the first really great run by an ex-Champ Car guy - Graham Rahal, starting second. While a second year AOWR driver, he acted like a rookie in meeting his race's end by not being patient enough while lapping Darren Manning battling for position. The day began with the next-gen front row of Marco and Graham, but it was a guy starting 11th who took the cake. Ryan Briscoe's job looked to be in jeopardy, being 18th after Indy in a Penske. This race probably saved his career, and his drive was a strong one. His car looked good coming through the field all the way to the front. He even got a little bit of luck from the racing gods, narrowly avoiding the Marco-Ed-Vitor crash. 3. Texas While what passed for coverage from the "Worldwide Leader" was horrendous, it failed to diminish what was a good Texas race. There was a lot of nice side-by-side action (and not just because Briscoe was holding up the high line) that I've come to expect at Texas Motor Speedway. The finish was unfortunately muted due to the Marco-RHR crash near the end that cost them each a wonderful finish, causing the race to end under yellow. Still, being under the lights at Texas is one of the best things IndyCars have to offer. 2. Chicagoland The last two races at Chicagoland have produced classic finishes. Both times, Scott Dixon failed to win, although this time he had just enough to win the war for the championship. It had all the elements of a great IRL race: tight packs, side by side racing (even if the result of team blocking), and a guy coming from the back of the pack. Helio drove a hell of a race, and pulled out a great pass right at the finish. I knew from first glance he had one, no matter what the transponder said. 1. Watkins Glen It may have looked like this countdown would be without a right turner, but the fact is that IndyCar doesn't go to that many of great quality. While the Glen may be passed its prime as much as Mid-Ohio is, it still managed to put on a show. This is a rare race of the season that is defined by an accident. Maybe you could say that about Homestead (TK would have won if not for Viso's crash), but certainly Scott Dixon plowing into the rear end of Ryan Briscoe's car altered this race. It took out the big timers, leaving two guys looking for win #1: In one car, Darren Manning, many years in IndyCar and driving for a drought ridden AJ Foyt team. The other, Ryan Hunter-Reay, twice a winner in Champ Cars but has not gotten there in the IRL. Manning got to the front thanks to going off sequence (which they did at just about every road/street race they didn't qualify well for), while RHR qualified third. With nine laps remaining, Hunter-Reay set up a nice pass on Manning going into turn 1 to take the lead. He milked out the advantage to win. It was great to see Rahal Letterman back in the winner's circle again. The series has been so dominated by Ganassi, Penske, and Andretti Green that any win outside that group is more than welcomed.