Power increases championship points lead over Franchitti
Will Power has been taking that one-race-at-a-time approach to the second half of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. Concurrently, he's sizing up the scenarios that point toward his first series championship.
His victory July 18 in the Honda Indy Toronto could prove to be the tipping point.
"The key for me when I came to this race was avoiding carnage and accidents, which happens every year here," said Power, who led Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti across the finish line by 1.2 seconds. "The first corner of the first lap could have been the end for me, but I just backed off and gave up a couple of positions instead. Sometimes you just need to keep in mind the big picture."
That's coming into focus with seven races remaining. Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, recorded his fourth victory of the season - the only competitor with more than one - and increased his lead in the title chase to 42 over Franchitti.
Next up is the Honda Indy Edmonton, where Power last year netted his first series victory. For the second time this season he'll seek to become the fourth driver in series history to win three races in a row (Scott Dixon in 2007, Dan Wheldon in 2005 and Kenny Brack in 1998). Power won at Brazil and St. Petersburg to kick off the season and has added the Watkins Glen-Toronto combo.
"I believe if you're put in that position, you should be winning," said Power, who grabbed the lead for good on the 1.75-mile, 11-turn street course at Exhibition Place in Toronto on Lap 72 of 85. "You're given the equipment to win. I've been given a full-time ride in one of the best teams in the series. To repay them, you've got to win.
"I look at some of the races where we missed out, where I feel we were strong enough. We could have won more and so could other people. We'll always be challenging for wins every weekend and we should be. It's as simple as that."
Winning the championship is another thing altogether. The airport circuit in Edmonton and the Mid-Ohio natural-terrain course are physically demanding and starting on the first three rows is advantageous. Then there are the four oval events to close out the schedule.
Over the past season and a half, Franchitti has an average finish of 5.3 on the 14 ovals (three victories; only two finishes out of the top 10). And, as the competition in Toronto displayed (seven different teams represented in the top 10), there are a number of variables.
"Man, I know it's going to be a tough championship to win," Power said. "I was aware coming into the season that I had lack of experience on mile-and-a-half ovals. I think the only place it really showed was Kansas, where I was very cautious and just finished the race (12th). Everywhere else, I felt like I could have challenged for the win.
"I want to win an oval race before the year's out. I've been knocking on the door, so I think that may come."
The three drivers other than Franchitti, the 2009 Toronto race winner and reigning series champion, closest to Power in the standings lost ground at Toronto. Scott Dixon (40 points behind entering the race), Ryan Briscoe (-47) and Helio Castroneves (-54) exited prematurely because of separate incidences of contact.
"It's very sad," said Castroneves, who started third but finished a season-low 24th. "We had an awesome car and I think we could've fought for the win. (Vitor Meira) just broke very early going into (Turn 3 on Lap 22) and I just didn't anticipate that. It's really too bad. The Team Penske crew had a great pit stop and we were looking strong. We'll regroup and come back with a better result next week at Edmonton."
Franchitti also is looking to improve one position on the City Centre Airport course. Shutting Power out of Victory Circle, and climbing that top step himself, is the most effective way to make the push for his third series title.
"We're trying to beat him," he said of Power. "Last year (at Toronto) it worked out for us. The strategy we chose (this year), it didn't, and that's the way it is sometimes. But he's done a helluva job. We've got to keep making progress, because if you stand still you're going to get passed by four or five different cars just the next week because the speed of development in the series is pretty intense right now, even though we've had theses cars for such a long time."