Kentucky shows how quickly IndyCar championship can change
Ninety minutes after surveying the 2-foot gash in the left sidepod of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, Will Power still couldn't believe his bad luck.
By his own account, the pole sitter for the Kentucky Indy 300 had the quickest car for the 200-lap race on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval, and the initial 48 laps he led backed it up.
But as he was turning into his pit stall for a Lap 49 service stop under green, the front wing of the No. 24 Team Ipiranga Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car sliced Power's No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. It cut to the quick.
"Basically, it was worth 4 mph," said Power, who faded to 23rd after two additional stops to cover the damage with black tape. "The handling didn't really change, but it got slower. I did not see (Ana Beatriz); they sent her straight into us. It's just a mistake.
"From what they told me, she was trying to get first gear for about 5 seconds. If she would have gone when she was supposed to go, she would have come out in front of us. It's unbelievable. We had the quicker car of the day and I couldn't have seen anyone beating us. It was our fastest oval car of the year. I just can't believe it."
Power soldiered to 19th place in the penultimate race of the season, which saved precious points in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship chase. Still, the driver who entered the race 11 points ahead of main challenger Dario Franchitti finds himself 18 points back heading to the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda on Oct. 16 at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Franchitti will win his fourth title -- and third in a row -- if he finishes first or second or finishes third and adds at least one bonus point for winning the pole (one point) or leading the most laps (two points). Power would win any tiebreaker based on victories.
"Things change quickly in this sport, and we need to focus on winning the race," said Power, who in 2010 took the points lead into the season finale only to fall five points shy of the title. "We have to put 100 percent into winning the pole, leading the most laps. As much as this is disappointing, it's not going to help us thinking about it. What's going to help is us working even harder to turn up with something special at Vegas."
Franchitti posted his 13th top-five finish as runner-up to Ed Carpenter at Kentucky, but isn't counting the $1 million bonus award to the champion.
"It just shows how quickly things change," he said, referring to Power's race-changing incident and his own season-long results. "You never give up. Until it's mathematically impossible, you haven't lost it or you haven't won it. Just kept our head down and (we) did our job.
"So we'll just go next week with an open mind and see what comes of it."