JOLIET, Ill. - The Indy Car season finale wound up going head-to-head with the NASCAR "Race to the Chase" in Richmond on Sunday thanks to Tropical Storm Hanna forcing Saturday night's Cup race to be moved to the next afternoon.
And the winner hands down was the electrifying open wheel show here at Chicagoland Speedway.
While the NASCAR regular season closer had a few flashes of drama as Clint Bowyer edged into the Chase by the skin of his teeth and Jimmie Johnson edged Tony Stewart to the checkered flag, it paled in comparison to the show the IRL put on in the shadows of The WIndy City.
Helio Castroneves started dead last after his qualifying mess-up on Saturday and put on a frenzied charge through the 28-car car field in hopes of running down Scott Dixon and somehow stealing the championship away.
Castroneves and Dixon put on a closing lap duel for the lead that may have been unmatched in the thousands of races I've witnessed in my life.
Lap after lap the pair raced within inches of each other, never touching and somehow not sending the other airborne.
When the checkered flag flew the naked eye could not tell who was in front and the race winner in what turned out to be the second-closest finish in Indy Car history - a mere 0.0033 of a second that saw Castroneves edged ahead for the win.
It wasn't enough to take the title from Dixon but it was plenty to show the world the IRL is one of the best forms of racing competition anywhere.
"I'm kind of like speechless, to be honest," said Castroneves "I found out when I was walking to the podium to receive the second-place finish. "I actually thought I really won it, but sometimes when you're going 215 mph it's hard for me to see in the blink of an eye."
For the quiet Dixon the fatastic finish capped what has been on eof the best year's in the New Zealander's life.
“It’s been an amazing year, starting with marrying my beautiful wife, Emma, and just a great race season,” Dixon said.
The post-merger IRL has had its ups and down but Sunday was definitely an up. If the league can find a way to market and give this kind of racing the exposure it deserves, there is no reason that Indy Car racing can capture some of the lost audience it suffered through the CART-IRL divorce.
Anyone who watched Sunday's race had to come away thinking Indy Car racing is something to behold.
And you didn't have to compare it to what NASCAR had to offer Sunday to make that conclusion.