On February 28, 2008, the twelve-year split between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series ended. This led to the cancellation of the 2008 Champ Car season.

The reunification of the two series was not that simple. The first issue to resolve was scheduling. Originally sixteen races were planned for the 2008 season but that grew to nineteen when the Champ Car events at Long Beach, Edmonton and Australia were added to the schedule. A further complication was a conflict on the weekend of April 20. The IndyCar competitors raced at the Indy Japan 300 and Champ Car fulfilled its Long Beach obligations.

Teams would use the Dallara IR-05 chassis with the Honda engine. The Honda HR7R-HR11R used by entrants is 3.5-liter aluminum alloy V8-engine. The fuel-injected normally-aspirated motor produces 650-horsepower at 10,300-rpm. The exception to this chassis/engine combination was at Long Beach where the Champ Car teams would compete with the Panoz DP01 chassis and 2.65-liter eight-cylinder turbocharged Cosworth XFE engine. This would be the last race for the Panoz DP01 in Indy Car competition.

There were some additional newsworthy stories for the 2008 season:

  • The reunification meant there were more cars in the series. As a result, road and street course ‘knockout’ qualifying sessions were used with slower drivers being eliminated from each session - culminating in the ‘Firestone Fast Six.’
  • Qualifying on ovals was changed from a single timed lap to a four-lap average – the method used at the Indianapolis 500.
  • On the driver front – two drivers, Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish, Jr. left the series to participate in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The penultimate round of the 2008 IndyCar Series was held at Detroit’s Belle Isle. The Belle Isle circuit is a fourteen-turn 2.096-mile temporary street circuit. The Detroit Indy Car Grand Prix presented by Firestone was scheduled to be a ninety-lap contest but was shortened to eighty-seven-laps due to a time limit.

The 2008 championship was between Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves with two races in the season.

Justin Wilson had several top-ten finishes in the first half of the season but was never a threat to win. The turning point occurred in Edmonton when he claimed the final position on the podium. At Belle Isle, Wilson earned the fourth starting position in the No. 02 Dallara IR-05. Late in the race, Castroneves was leading, but he was penalized for blocking, which allowed Wilson to move into first place and take the victory.
Helio Castroneves’ victory in the previous round at Sonoma Raceway moved him to within forty-three markers of the championship leader, Scott Dixon. Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara IR-05, qualified second to Dixon. Different strategies allowed him to move ahead of Dixon in the race. Late in the contest, Castroneves was penalized for blocking a hard-charging Justin Wilson and finished second.
Andretti Green Racing’s Tony Kanaan was victorious in the Sun Trust Indy Challenge at Richmond International and was fourth in the standings. Kanaan put the No. 11 Frank’s Energy Drink / Team 7 Eleven Dallara IR-05 eighth on the starting grid. He wasted no time moving up the race order and was in fourth place before the halfway point. A different pit strategy moved Kanaan ahead of Orio Servia for a third-place finish.
At the Detroit Indy Grand Prix, Oriol Servia equaled his best qualifying performance. He started third at Belle Isle and in round fourteen at Edmonton. Servia, driving the No. 5 KV Racing Technology Dallara IL-05, never fell out of contention during the Detroit Indy Grand Prix. In the last half of the race, he settled into third place but lost the position during the final round of pit stops and finished in the fourth position.
The points leader entering the penultimate round was Scott Dixon. A disastrous weekend in the previous race at Sonoma saw his championship lead fall from seventy-eight markers to forty-three. With the team refocused at Detroit, Dixon put the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Dallara IL-05 on the pole. After the final round of pit stops, he was in fifth and trying to manage fuel conservation. Dixon was unable to improve his position.
The driver of the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Dallara IL-05, Ryan Hunter-Reay, scored his first series victory at Watkins Glen International. During the qualifying session at Detroit, he recorded the seven fastest time. On lap-55, Will Power attempted a pass on Hunter-Reay and made contact. Hunter-Reay received a flat tire, but the timing couldn’t have been better as he had to pit for fuel. Hunter-Reay finished sixth.
Dan Weldon entered round sixteen third in the point standings. At Belle Isle, he qualified eleventh, driving the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Dallara IL-05. On lap-16 of the race, Weldon attempted a pass on Jaime Camara in turn eight. The two made contact, and Camara retired, but Weldon was able to continue. On lap-64, he went into the tire barrier at turn seven and retired. Weldon was classified with a twentieth-place finish.
The second member of Team Penske was Australian Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe drove the No. 6 Dallara IL-05 and grabbed victories at the Milwaukee Mile and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He was out of the title chase but fifth in points. At the conclusion of qualifying in Detroit, Briscoe was fifth fastest. But on this day, he was never in contention and finished ninth; however, Briscoe retained his position in the standings.

14Justin WilsonDallara IR-05 / HondaNewman Haas Lanigan Racing87-
22Hélio CastronevesDallara IR-05 / HondaTeam Penske87-
38Tony KanaanDallara IR-05 / HondaAndretti Green Racing87-
43Oriol ServiaDallara IR-05 / HondaKV Racing Technology87-
51Scott DixonDallara IR-05 / HondaTarget Chip Ganassi Racing87-
67Ryan Hunter-ReayDallara IR-05 / HondaRahal Letterman Racing87-
724Bruno JunqueiraDallara IR-05 / HondaDale Coyne Racing87-
812Will PowerDallara IR-05 / HondaKV Racing Technology87-
95Ryan BriscoeDallara IR-05 / HondaTeam Penske87-
1017A.J. Foyt IVDallara IR-05 / HondaVision Racing87-
1116Hideki MutohDallara IR-05 / HondaAndretti Green Racing87-
1215Darren ManningDallara IR-05 / HondaA.J. Foyt Enterprises87-
136Graham RahalDallara IR-05 / HondaNewman Haas Lanigan Racing87-
1420Ed CarpenterDallara IR-05 / HondaVision Racing87-
1519Mario MoraesDallara IR-05 / HondaDale Coyne Racing86-
1610Danica PatrickDallara IR-05 / HondaAndretti Green Racing86-
1714Vitor MeiraDallara IR-05 / HondaPanther Racing83-
1813Marco AndrettiDallara IR-05 / HondaAndretti Green Racing81Transmission
1918Buddy RiceDallara IR-05 / HondaDreyer & Reinbold Racing76Suspension
2011Dan WeldonDallara IR-05 / HondaTarget Chip Ganassi Racing64Accident
2125Tomas ScheckterDallara IR-05 / HondaLuczo-Dragon Racing56-
2221Alex TaglianiDallara IR-05 / HondaEric Bachelart Racing54Transmission
2323Milka DunoDallara IR-05 / HondaDreyer & Reinbold Racing46Handling
249E.J. VisoDallara IR-05 / HondaHVM Racing32Accident
2522Jaime CamaraDallara IR-05 / HondaEric Bachelart Racing16Accident
2626Marty RothDallara IR-05 / HondaRoth Racing0Did Not Start

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