Power poised to win the IndyCar championship
Power led 45 of 60 laps en route to victory in Sunday’s Camping World Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International, padding his lead in the championship to 32 points. And in his eyes, that’s far from safe.
"That's not that much," he said after claiming his third victory of the season. "It's one weekend. You could have a bad race, somebody wins, you're back behind again. I realize you actually have to win races to win the championship. You do.
"The points spread, that extra 10 points you get for winning, the guys I'm competing against -- it's really tough. It's really competitive. You can't relax. I mean, people say, ‘You get on the road courses, road courses coming up.’ But [Scott] Dixon, [Dario] Franchitti, Helio [Castroneves], Ryan [Briscoe] are all as quick as I am. So you’ve got to win, but you’ve got to make no mistakes."
All of that is true. But even though the aforementioned rivals will be gunning for him all the way to Homestead in October, the current stretch of races play right into Power’s hands: a street course at Toronto (July 18), the airport course at Edmonton (July 25) that he won on last year, and then two tight, technical, natural-terrain road courses (Mid-Ohio, Aug. 8; Infineon, Aug. 22).
If he can replicate his performance from the first swing of road/street circuits from earlier this season – two victories at Sao Paulo, Brazil and St. Petersburg, Florida, plus top-five runs at Barber Motorsports Park and Long Beach, California – then that 32-point edge could grow into a margin that nobody will be able to overcome.
There may be one last four-pack of ovals to close the season, but Power’s shown to be a solid speedway competitor with Team Penske equipment at his disposal. Keep in mind that after losing the championship lead to Franchitti following the Firestone 550k at Texas last month, Power took it right back with a fifth-place run in the next race at Iowa Speedway. It may wind up being the most critical result of his season if he is to walk away with the title, especially if he goes on another tear.
It’s certainly not time to crown a champion, but now is the time for his rivals to deliver a few body blows and slow Power down. As he said himself, there’s a 10-point difference between first and second place. Franchitti, Dixon, Castroneves and Briscoe must find a way to keep Power off the top spot of the podium (or at least finish ahead of him) during these next four events. It’s as simple as that.
Franchitti may be just the right man for the job. After all, he is the defending champion at Toronto. No doubt he’d like to hack into Power’s lead by defending his title in a week and a half. At that time, we’ll see if the Scotsman can kill two birds with one stone.
HUNTER-REAY SET FOR REST OF SEASON
American driver Ryan Hunter-Reay no longer has to worry about scrounging for sponsorship to keep his season alive. A group of Andretti Autosport team sponsors, including well-known companies like the Dr Pepper Snapple Group and AirTran Airways, have stepped up to fund his No. 37 program for the rest of the 2010 campaign.
Hunter-Reay’s red, white and black IZOD scheme will remain on the car, save for two events that will have the No. 37 in an Ethanol USA livery.
"Andretti Autosport and [team owner] Michael Andretti have been so supportive in so many ways," he said in a team press release. "They have really dug deep to not only get me and the No. 37 car on track this season, but to keep it there. As I've been saying all along, this team is incredibly good at what it does and that's why we've not only won together already, but we are now making it a full-season effort."
A new initiative connected with the No. 37 program called ‘Racing for Cancer’ also debuted this weekend. Developed by Tom Vossman, the CEO of Andretti team sponsor Inland Industrial Services Group, ‘Racing for Cancer’ will raise funds for cancer research and other charitable initiatives throughout the remainder of the 2010 season and beyond.
As a nod to the No. 37 and in honor of Hunter-Reay’s late mother, Lydia (who succumbed to colon cancer last year), several team sponsors have committed to making $37,000 donations to the effort. The first official donation came from Hunter-Reay’s teammate and former IZOD IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan, who pitched in with his own sum of $37,000.