Franchitti, Power locked in Indy battle

Scotland's Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing gets ready for his warm up run at the...

Scotland's Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing gets ready for his warm up run at the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, Alberta, July 24, 2011. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:29 PM ET

LAS VEGAS - Not since Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais butted chrome horns in the old Champ Car World Series has there been a pair of antagonists as fierce as Dario Franchitti and Will Power at the top of North American open wheel racing.

Just as it is hard to forget seeing Bourdais chase the Canadian through the paddock after Tracy punted him off the track at St. Petersburg back in 2003, the feud between Power and Franchitti at Toronto after their Turn 3 wreck this season is equally memorable.

Lets face it, as IndyCar gets ready to crown one of either Franchitti or Power as champion on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there wont be any hugs and kisses afterwards.

These two arent anything close to being buddies.

Power admitted as much earlier this week in an answer to a question about whether he and Franchitti like each other.

No, we dont, was his answer.

Franchitti, always the diplomat, wasnt quite as frank in answering the same question, but the end result was pretty much the same.

Its a tough one because were in this (championship) fight, regardless of if we get along, he said. Were out there to beat each other. Im certainly out there to beat Will and to beat the whole Penske organization as much as I admire and respect and, in a lot of cases, like the guys on the team.

This season the bad blood between the No. 10 Ganassi team and the No. 12 Penske Racing team started at the opening race at St. Petersburg where Power accused Franchitti of bumping wheels with him, costing the No. 12 car a position on the tight temporary street course.

This, of course, came after Franchitti all but stole the 2010 IndyCar championship from Power in the final race of that season at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Power said such competition simply precludes any kind of personal friendship between them.

Im sure, if we werent competing against each other, that we would be friends, good friends, he said. But you just cant be friends with someone that you so fiercely compete with.

Its impossible. It is for me, anyway. I respect him on the track, and were friendly off the track in a way, and thats just how its always going to be. Its just the way it is when youre competing against someone.

He compared how he feels about Franchitti to how he felt about former teammate Simon Pagenaud.

I had an incident with a teammate in 2007, Pagenaud, and we just hated each other, he said. We didnt even talk in the truck, but now were best of friends now that we dont compete against each other. Thats just the way this sport is.

Not that you would expect Power and Franchitti to form any kind of bond in their post racing careers; they are too dissimilar.

Franchitti, for the most part, comes off as the epitome of class in a sport born of rough and tumble characters. He has the chiselled good looks of a matinee idol, the cultured accent of his native Scotland and is married to Oscar-nominated actress Ashley Judd.

Power, on the other hand, portrays himself as the hard scrabble Aussie who has had to fight for every inch of the race track in every racing series he has ever entered.

Last seasons defeat was particularly hard on Power. He had a slim lead five points going into Homestead but it was his race to lose and in a fraction of a second he lost control of his car and slammed it into the wall of the 1.5 mile oval.

It ended his race and his chances for a championship.

This season, facing another 1.5 mile oval at Las Vegas, Power has put the 2010 debacle behind him. Where once ovals were his personal Achilles heal, now he is confident he can compete with Franchitti, generally considered the master of the roundy rounds.

I think the biggest difference for me this year is just Im a lot further along on ovals, Power said. I feel as though every time I go into a weekend I have a chance of winning on them.

Obviously, were coming from behind this time, but at the end of the day, I feel as though weve done everything as a team to prepare for this race. I think that were in very good shape.

Franchittis prowess on ovals he has won 15 IndyCar oval races to one for Power certainly gives him an advantage but he is not taking anything for granted as he fights for his fourth series title.

I see Will and the Penske boys as very, very difficult opponents, and that was the same last year, he said. Its no different now. But our job is to go out and to beat them on Sunday.

As much as the two are different, they agree on what has to be done at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Our job is simple, Power said. We need to win the race. Whatever else happens is totally out of our control.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES STANDINGS

1: Dario Franchitti 573

2: Will Power 555

3: Scott Dixon 518

4: Oriol Servi 427

5: Tony Kanaan 365

6: Ryan Briscoe 364

7: Ryan Hunter-Reay 351

8: Marco Andretti 337

9: Graham Rahal 320

10: Danica Patrick 314

11: Hlio Castroneves 312

12: James Hinchcliffe 302

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos