Can Will Power his way past Franchitti?

Australia's Will Power of Team Penske celebrates winning the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, Alberta,...

Australia's Will Power of Team Penske celebrates winning the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, Alberta, July 24, 2011. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:28 PM ET

No matter that Will Power is coming on strong in the latter stages of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship with road and street course wins at Sonoma and Baltimore respectively in recent races.

He may be just five points behind defending champion Dario Franchitti as IndyCar heads to Japan’s Motegi circuit for its final road course of the season with lots of confidence, but with the last two events — at Kentucky and Las Vegas — on ovals, it is advantage Franchitti.

Power certainly has earned the title as the top left-turn, right-turn guy in the series with a record six victories on street and road course to go with his seven pole positions — also all won on street and road circuits.

The affable Aussie is very aware, however, that he needs Franchitti to slip up if he’s to earn his first IndyCar championship.

“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.”

And he is almost sure to win the Mario Andretti trophy for his efforts, but Franchitti and the Target Ganassi Racing squad is miles ahead in their oval program.

Just look at what happened in the final two oval races in 2010. Power went into those races with a 17-point lead over Franchitti only to lose the points bulge and the championship by five points with a disappointing finish at Homestead.

How good is Franchitti non-ovals?

Well of his 20 IZOD IndyCar Series victories, 14 of them have been on the roundy-rounds.

Franchitti doesn’t think the numbers prove anything. In fact, he said this week that he thinks Power is his equal at any given race.

“As for Power, we are all very equal on the ovals and the road courses on any given day,” he said. “When we get the car working the way we like it, we are on a very similar level.”

CRASH, BANG, BOOM

Things are getting over-heated in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series as it heads into its final pair of races this season.

At Barrie Speedway this past weekend, Kerry Micks in the No. 02 Dickies/Beyond Digital Imaging Ford and J.R. Fitzpatrick in the No. 84 Equipment Express Chevrolet clashed on the final lap costing Fitzpatrick the win.

It also created a ruckus in the pit lane area after the race as the two drivers and their respective pit crews got into a pushing and shoving match.

This marks the third or fourth time that Micks and Fitzpatrick have brawled on and off the track since coming together at the series finale at Kawartha Speedway last season.

Both drivers are in the championship hunt and, in stock car racing, all the rules are out the window on the final lap, but NASCAR needs to take these two aside to remind them that it is the series that often suffers the black eye in these incidents.

The final two events of 2011 are this weekend at Riverside Speedway in Antigonish, N.S. and at Kawartha Speedway on Sept. 24.

FINISH LINES

The Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship wound up its 2011 season at the ICAR Circuit in Montreal with class titles going to the No. 2 Pontiac Solstice of Etienne Borgeat, of Montreal, in Super Class with 1,524 points and to the No. 55 Honda Civic Si of Tom Kwok, of Markham, in Touring Class with 1,584 points ... Conquest Racing has added Brazilian Joao Paulo de Oliveira for the IndyCar round at Motegi on Sunday. The 30-year-old has made a name for himself in Japan over the past years, clinching the 2010 Formula Nippon championship ... The iconic No. 3 will be back full time next season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Austin Dillon and the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet for the first time since the death of Dale Earnhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has revived the car on three occasions since his father’s passing: Daytona and Charlotte in 2002 and then again last July at Daytona when he won in the No. 3 Wrangler Chevrolet.

DEAN’S RANT

When the bosses of NASCAR trotted out their “Boys have at it” dictum last season it was seen as a green light for Sprint Cup drivers to rough one another up on the track.

But after the Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night, Kurt Busch appears to have taken it a step further be embroilling himself in a dispute with a pair of reporters.

In a post-race television interview Busch said that he was “in (Jimmie Johnson’s) head” after the two had spun one another out twice during the race.

Later when ask by one reporter about the clash, Busch spouted out a foul-mouthed response and moved toward the media member in a threatening manner.

A little later when he was asked by a second reporter about being in Johnson’s head, Busch denied that he said it and when that reporter produced a written transcript of the interview, Busch grabbed it and tore it up.

I can’t imagine any other professional athlete in a major sport getting away with that sort of behaviour.

And I’m sure that Busch’s team owner — Roger Penske — can’t be too happy with his driver. Maybe even enough to cancel his contract for next season.

WICKENS GETS MARUSSIA VIRGIN TEST DRIVE

Three months after Canada’s Robert Wickens was promoted to reserve driver for the Formula One Marussia Virgin team, the 22-year-old finally got his first test drive on Tuesday.

Wickens climbed behind the wheel of the MVR02 Motor Racing Cosworth at the Varano test circuit near Milan, in Italy.

The purpose of the day-long test was to judge the straight-line aerodynamic data of the race car.

The data collected by Wickens will be compared to those collected in the team’s wind tunnel.

Wickens spent all of this season trying for his first major European racing series title in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship.

He currently leads the series over Carlin teammate Jean-Eric Vergne with the final races Saturday and Sunday at Paul Ricard Circuit in France.

DANICA FEARS QUAKE AFTERSHOCKS

The aftershocks from the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan are still being felt in the motorsport world.

Danica Patrick expressed concerns at Richmond International Raceway this past weekend about the how safe it is in that country as the IZOD IndyCar Series prepares for its race there on Sunday at Twin Ring Motegi, which is about 115 kilometres from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Earlier this season, the MotoGP series postponed its planned race there until next month after riders voiced their fears.

“I don’t want to make anyone mad, but heck yeah, I’m concerned,” Patrick said.

While recent studies showed radiation levels beyond 80 km of the crippled nuke plant were relatively safe, Patrick said she is worried about the food and the possibility of another quake.

“They say don’t eat beef, which probably means don’t eat vegetables and fruit,” she said. “I read something about nine times the radiation in mushrooms so far out of Fukushima in that area. And there’s earthquakes every week. It seems every other week there’s a pretty big one. There’s been a couple 6.5s in the last month or two.”

Patrick told media members that she would be packing food and water from home to take with her to Japan.

“I feel like (IndyCar) should be responsible for all that, but I’m not going to rely on them,” she said.

Japan’s Takuma Sato said he has no such concerns.

“I have no hesitation to race at Twin Ring Motegi or in Japan. None,” he said. “I am proud to race here and I feel no harm will be done by racing at Motegi to myself, other drivers, fans or media.”

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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