Mario Andretti Trophy to be decided in Japan
It's Round 15 of the IZOD IndyCar Series, the 10th road/street event of the season and - not to add any pressure - the race that will decide the winner of the second Mario Andretti Road Trophy.
|Can Power hold onto his lead?|
The competition for the award that recognizes the top point producer on the roads/streets is about as tight as the overall championship, with Will Power and Dario Franchitti dueling for both honors.
Power takes a 14-point lead to the series' first venture on the 2.983-mile Twin Ring Motegi road course, which is being utilized because of damage sustained by the 1.5-mile oval racetrack in the March earthquake. The Verizon Team Penske driver earned the inaugural Andretti award.
Its companion award, the A.J. Foyt Oval Trophy, will be presented following the Kentucky Indy 300 on Oct. 2, and that chase also is neck and neck between Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Franchitti.
Five of Power's series record-tying six victories and all seven of his PEAK Performance Pole Award starts this season have been recorded on road/street courses as he's charged from 50 points behind Franchitti in the overall championship following Toronto in mid-July to five points.
Twenty-one of Power's 502 total points have been courtesy of bonuses for winning the pole (seven) and leading the most race laps (14), and he's dominated the past two races.
Franchitti has the lead; Power has the momentum. But anything can happen, beginning with the Sept. 17 race on an unknown road course.
"With my experience with championships, I don't think you're ever safe," Power said. "It only takes Dario having a bad day and me to have a good day and I'm right there. … These last three races, I have to have very good races, and I will be doing everything I absolutely can to make sure I do."
Franchitti prevailed in the 2010 title chase by five points over Power, outpacing the Australian by 22 points in the final two races (Twin Ring Motegi and Homestead-Miami Speedway ovals). Following the Motegi road course event, the series wraps up at the 1.5-mile Kentucky (Oct. 2) and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16) ovals. Both Power and Franchitti will be among the drivers testing at Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 23.
Power has one IZOD IndyCar Series oval victory (Texas2 in June). Advantage, Franchitti, who has recorded 14 of his 20 IZOD IndyCar Series wins on ovals?
"As for Power, we are all very equal on the ovals and the road courses on any given day," the three-time series champion said. "When we get the car working the way we like it, we are on a very similar level."
Tony Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, sees the title pursuit going the distance for the sixth consecutive year.
"In a way, (Power) has improved his game on ovals because that's where he got beat last year," said Kanaan, who finished third in the Baltimore Grand Prix. "It plays a lot in Will's favor, us going to Japan on the road course now. So let's see about the last two ovals. It's going to be interesting. I'm Dario's friend, but I love to see people win their first championship."