CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The championship race is so tight and so tense, tempers are boiling. Car owners have nearly come to blows. Accusations of dirty driving abound.

This, however, is the IndyCar Series, its final month full of bickering and blocking.

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All of which is a tremendous buildup for Sunday's season finale in Chicago, where Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti will attempt to hold off Scott Dixon and teammate Tony Kanaan for the title.

Meanwhile, back in America's No. 1 racing series, NASCAR's much-hyped "Race to the Chase" has been a bit of a dud.

Only Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains mathematically eligible to grab one of the final Chase spots Saturday night at Richmond.

But Earnhardt is 128 points behind the 12th and final qualifying spot, and even he admits his chances are slim to none.

"It doesn't look like we're going to make it, but we're not going to quit trying until they tell us we're not (in)," Earnhardt said after finishing fifth in Sunday night's race at California Speedway.

And that's what this 26-race "regular season" has come down to: Junior's last, desperate grasp at the title he's never delivered to his daddy's company, and the need for catastrophe to strike a rival driver to make it happen.

Of course, this is the precursor to the main event. The 10-race march to the Nextel Cup championship is still a week away, and it's possible it will be a nail-biter down to the Nov. 18 finale.

But, oh, if only it could be half as juicy as the IRL.

In the span of seven days:

--Dixon took the points lead out of Sonoma when Franchitti wrecked with teammate Marco Andretti late in the race. It left Franchitti steaming on pit road, where he was calmed by actress wife Ashley Judd before he coolly criticized Andretti. Meanwhile, team owner Michael Andretti was equally unimpressed with Franchitti.

--At the very same time, Dixon and top league officials were disgusted when Kanaan deliberately didn't pass Franchitti late at Sonoma so that his teammate wouldn't lose valuable points. By admittedly laying back, Kanaan prevented anyone else from passing Franchitti -- tactics racing great Rick Mears said damaged the integrity of sport.

--Kanaan then won Sunday's race in Detroit, putting himself in mathematical contention to win the title while caustically dedicating the performance to Mears.

--Dixon and Franchitti, meanwhile, were involved in a last-lap crash that started when Buddy Rice ran out of gas. It caused Dixon to run into Rice, and his spinning car slid across the track in front of Franchitti. Dixon said it was accidental and Franchitti said he believed him, but Michael Andretti strongly accused Dixon of deliberately wrecking his rival.

--Although Franchitti moved back into the points lead, Andretti was so incensed, he and co-owner Kevin Savoree confronted Dixon's owner, Chip Ganassi. Witnesses said the men almost came to blows.

Everybody is mad at somebody, and it will all culminate Sunday in Chicago, where Franchitti leads Dixon by a whisper-thin three points and Kanaan is a manageable 39 back.