IndyCar title on the line in Las Vegas
IndyCar’s best two drivers don’t particularly like each
Oh, Dario Franchitti and Will Power act friendly in front of the
camera, will make idle chitchat without coming to blows, profess a
mutual respect for each other.
But when it comes to taking a vacation together or even throwing
a few beers back, it’s probably not going happen. Both are just too
competitive, too focused on trying to beat each other on the track
– and that doesn’t stop when they climb out of the cockpit.
”I’m sure if we weren’t competing against each other that we
would be friends – good friends,” said Power, who called
Franchitti a princess earlier in the season. ”You just can’t be
friends with someone that you so fiercely compete with. It’s
impossible. It is for me, anyway. I respect him on the track and
we’re friendly off the track in a way, and that’s just how it’s
always going to be. It’s just the way it is when you’re competing
The rivalry between Franchitti and Power continues Sunday at Las
Vegas Motor Speedway, just up the interstate from the bright lights
of The Strip.
A year ago, Franchitti overtook Power in the season finale at
Homestead, erasing an 11-point deficit to win his second straight
title and third overall.
The roles, along with the locale, are reversed in the
Heading into the Las Vegas 300, Franchitti is the one with the
lead this time, up 18 points over Power. After poor qualifying runs
on Friday, the drivers from the top two teams in IndyCar, Chip
Ganassi Racing and Team Penske, will start side-by-side in Row 9,
adding a touch of intrigue to a crowded 34-car field on a 1.5-mile
oval that carries some of the fastest speeds outside of the
”Whatever happens, it’s going to be a tough race for us on
Sunday,” Franchitti said. ”I’m glad, especially qualifying back
here, that I don’t have to find those 18 points.
Power is the one chasing this year, but he may have a better
chance than when he was leading heading into Homestead last
Known as a street-course specialist – he won he inaugural
IndyCar road course championship in 2010 – he’s made progress on
the ovals, taking a first-third split in the dual races at Texas
while grabbing a couple of other top-10 finishes on such
Though he doesn’t like the flat-out style of racing at LVMS,
where speeds reached close to 225 mph in practice, Power believes
his oval improvement will give him a shot to catch Franchitti.
”The biggest difference for me this year is just I’m a lot
further along on ovals,” he said. ”I feel as though every time I
go into a weekend I have a chance of winning them. Obviously, we’re
coming from behind this time, but I feel as though we’ve done
everything as a team to prepare for this race. I think that we’re
in very good shape.”
Power’s biggest obstacle may be the man he’s chasing.
While Power can be a little mercurial, Franchitti seemingly
never gets flustered, whether he’s down in points or a race.
The Scotsman won his first IndyCar title in 2007 and, after an
ill-fated run in NASCAR, came from behind to win the past two
IndyCar championships. Adept at ovals and road courses, he’s been
in the top two in points all season, winning four races to get in
position to join IndyCar’s all-time greats if he can drive off with
”As an old person that has been around for a long time, I know
this guy too well to believe he’s nervous,” said Tony Kanaan, who
earned the pole for Sunday’s race a week after completing the
Ironman Triathlon. ”I think he knows exactly what he needs to
Whatever happens in Sunday’s finale, this trip to Las Vegas
likely will be deemed a success for the series.
Disappointed with the ratings at Homestead a year ago, IndyCar
CEO Randy Bernard took a gamble on Las Vegas, putting up the
series’ own money to run the race in hopes of attracting more
attention to the sagging sport.
The prelude to the race included a well-received parade lap of
all 34 cars down Las Vegas Blvd. and a celebrity blackjack
tournament with some of the drivers. There’s also a $5 million
prize on the line if Dan Wheldon, who doesn’t have a full-time
ride, can win the finale from the back of the pack.
It also will mark the final race by crossover star Danica
Patrick as a full-time IndyCar driver before she heads off to
The series will return to Las Vegas for next year’s finale,
So, as Patrick put it: ”Viva Las Vegas!”