Championship takes a little Will Power

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

JOLIET, ILL. - While the NASCAR Sprint Cup series was waiting out a rain delay at Chicagoland Speedway for the first race of the Chase for the Championship on Sunday, the IZOD IndyCar Series saw its championship take a rather dramatic turn at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

Early on Sunday morning on this side of the Pacific Ocean, Scott Dixon won the Japan Indy, but it was who finished second and eighth — Will Power and Dario Franchitti respectively — that threw a wrench into the season points battle.

Franchitti had gone into the race with a slim five-point lead but a poor qualifying effort put the No. 10 Ganassi Racing Dallara back in the fourth row, making Power’s efforts to finish in front of him a whole lot easier. Franchitti’s eighth-lace finish meant he left the race 11 points behind.

But Power claimed that he was only thinking about catching Dixon, and wasn’t paying attention to Franchitti's plight. It says here that the Aussie had his fingers crossed when he let that whopper pass his lips.

“We weren’t really thinking about points,” Power said after the race. “We were just thinking about doing a good job. The things you can’t control, it’s not worth even worrying about. We were just making sure we executed on the things we could control.”

Yet, to prove that indeed he was thinking almost exclusively about where his rival was at every moment of the Indy Japan Power said that his goal from now on was to keep Franchitti behind him at the final two races of the 2011 calendar.

“I just need to keep finishing in front of the 10 car the rest of the way and we’ll be fine,” Power said. “We’ll keep chipping away like we have been. We need to keep going and finish the season strong on the ovals.”

Oh, yeah, the ovals.

So far this season — and for the past two seasons — Franchitti and his Ganassi team have owned Power on the circle tracks.

Power, however, feels he can go into the 11/2-mile ovals at Kentucky and Las Vegas at least on even terms.

“Ovals, that’s what I enjoy the most racing, mile-and-a-half racing, Chicagoland last week, Texas this year, even Kentucky last year we were really strong, just didn’t end up with the result.”

INDYCAR CLOWN

IndyCar’s rules boss Brian Barnhart is under fire again, this time from three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

Castroneves was livid after being dropped from seventh place to 22nd at the Indy Japan when Barnhart ruled he passed rookie JR Hildebrand under yellow juts before the final re-start.

Castroneves tweeted his anger, ironically, by referring to a Paul Tracy quote after former CART steward Chris Kniefel ruled Tracy punted Castroneves on pit road at Laguna Seca back in 2001.

“Making the famous @paultracy’s words mine : Brian Barnhart is a circus clown !”, Castroneves blasted on his tweeter account early Sunday morning.

“I have said it before — the decisions by race control have been very inconsistent this season and I think today was just another example.”

FINISH LINES

A botched pit stop by his Newman Haas Racing crew cost Canadian James Hinchcliffe a Top 10 finish — he ended up 15th — at the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Twin Ring Motegi. It also put him further behind Hildebrand in the race for rookie of the year. Hildebrand finished sevenh. ... It was also a frustrating weekend for Toronto’s Robert Wickens at Circuit Paul Ricard in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. In the next to last round of the series, Wickens scored his ninth podium of the season — second place in Saturday’s race — but finished 19th on Sunday after a flat tire following contact with Spain’s Sergio Canamasas. Wickens still leads the series championship over rival Jean-Eric Vergne by two points. ... Still waiting for Paul Tracy to reveal his deal with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team for the next two IndyCar races at Kentucky and Las Vegas.


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