Briscoe takes checkered flag at Speedway

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By Brian Blair

It could not have been much closer.

Ryan Briscoe nosed out Scott Carpenter Saturday night to win the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

The two battled each other over the last few laps before Briscoe beat Carpenter to the checkered flag by .0162 seconds. The finish was the closest in the race’s 10-year history.

Scott Dixon was awarded the pole based on points after heavy rain Thursday caused the Friday qualifying sessions for both the Indy Car Series and the Firestone Indy Lights Series to be cancelled.

Dixon won last year’s race and was looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Buddy Lazier won the race in 2000 and 2001.

Dixon and Briscoe swapped the lead over the first half of the race before Carpenter took his first lead on lap 137.

He and Will Power battled for the top spot over the next 39 laps.

After a pit stop, Carpenter took his final lead of the night on lap 180.

Briscoe took the lead from Carpenter on lap 192 and the two then battled each other over the last eight laps before Briscoe finally edged out Carpenter at the finish line.

Carpenter’s second-place finish was his best finish in 94 starts. The finish was his fourth career top-five finish. It was also the third consecutive time he has finished in the top 10 at Kentucky Speedway.

Briscoe, who started the race in the 14th position, took over the top spot in the points standings with the win. He now leads Dixon, who finished seventh, by eight points heading into next week’s race in Ohio. The win was the second of the season for Briscoe.

Tony Kanaan finished the night in third place. For Kanaan, the top-five finish came a week after the Brazilian endured a fire on pit row in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The incident left burns on Kanaan’s face but could have been worse if the driver had not had his face shield down during the stop.

Helio Castroneves placed fourth and Graham Rahal finished the race in fifth place.

Dario Franchitti finished in sixth place. He was making his first appearance in the race since 2007 after taking last year off to run in the Sprint Cup Series.

Danica Patrick finished eighth.

Before the race, Bruton Smith, owner of Speedway Motorsports, said it appears the track will most likely not be getting a Sprint Cup race in 2010.

Smith said although he will continue to push for a race at the track, the pending lawsuit filed by the track’s previous owner, Jerry Carroll, appears to still be playing a factor in attempting to lure a Sprint Cup race to Sparta.

The other announcement of the weekend came from the Indy Racing League, which said it was moving the Meijer Indy 300 from its usual spot in August to Labor Day Weekend. It is still unclear whether the race will be on Saturday or Sunday.