IndyCar simply wanted a better show.
Ryan Briscoe and Ed Carpenter gave the series a little bit more than that.
Briscoe slipped past the upstart Carpenter yards from the finish to take the Kentucky 300 on Saturday night, winning by 0.162 seconds following a 10-lap duel that provided the kind of thrills that have been lacking during a mostly listless season.
"I don't know if I've ever been so excited at the end of a race," said Briscoe, who moved into the series points lead with his second win of the year. "It was very hard fought out there. It was a big win for me."
It was a victory for the series, too, which implemented a handful of changes earlier in the week in an effort to spice things up following a string of ho-hum races that produced more yawns than memorable moments.
Carpenter almost gave the series a win for the ages.
The hard luck driver for Vision Racing nearly picked up his first career win in his 94th start. He took the lead from Will Power with about 45 laps to go and held his ground despite racing in largely unfamiliar territory. Carpenter entered the race having led just four laps his entire career. He led 34 on Saturday.
"I was just trying to run as hard as I could and stay up front," Carpenter said after the first podium finish of his career. "It's just been a tough year and I was hoping this was going to be a breakout race and we could get our season turned around."
So did the series, which could benefit from the kind of side-by-side racing that highlighted the final stages. Having a trouble-free race helped. Thanks to just one caution flag, the average speed was 200.893 mph, the second-fastest in series history.
"They did their job and we did our job and that's it," said Tony Kanaan, who finished third a week after sustaining superficial first-degree burns in a cockpit fire in Edmonton. "The people who were expecting us to fail are probably disappointed right now. The old IRL is back. We'll have some exciting races on the superspeedways again."
It's what the series had it mind when it decided to give teams a little more wiggle room to fiddle with their cars.
None of the modifications made a bigger impact than the "Push to Pass" button.
The feature, a form of which was previously used in the Champ Car series, gave drivers up to 20 extra horsepower when pushed depending on their fuel mixture.
Drivers were limited to 20 pushes a race, and Carpenter went to the button early to make up ground. He had little trouble moving up from his 14th starting position, though even he was a little surprised by his ability to hang with the leaders. At one point he radioed to his team that he never thought he'd get to race so close to a Team Penske car like the one driven by Briscoe.
Briscoe is used to such battles, but he seemed to be out of it after scraping the wall on lap 129.
No biggie. He kept pecking away, eventually getting into a four-car breakaway with Carpenter, Kanaan and Helio Castroneves.
The pack stayed within a few lengths of each other over the final dozen laps, with Briscoe riding up front just off the outside of Carpenter.
Carpenter did his best to hold the line, but Briscoe kept finding a way to nip him at the start/finish line. Briscoe's secret? The button.
"I would time my push to pass button so I would get the extra power through Turns 3 and 4," he said. "I was just jumping in my seat trying to get in front of him across the finish line. It just worked out perfectly."
Barely. Carpenter kept edging out a little farther up the track over the last five laps hoping to buy an extra couple of inches.
"It was tough," Briscoe said. "I didn't know if I was imagining it or Ed Carpenter's line was getting wider and wider every lap. Roger (Penske) was in my ear saying 'harder, harder.'"
The win catapulted Briscoe into the points lead with five races remaining and ended a frustrating stretch that's seen him finish second five times since his season-opening win at St. Petersburg.
"Briscoe needed this one, he's been second, second, second," Penske said. "It's a great day for us."
It wasn't such a great day for pole sitter Scott Dixon, who entered the race with a small lead over Briscoe and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti.
Dixon dominated the first half of the race but slipped back following a caution on lap 123. Anxious to make up ground, he broke too early on the restart and was forced to give the spots back by race officials. The penalty seemed to sap his momentum and he finished seventh.