March 22, 2012
IndyCar drivers play 'Catch Dario'
By Dean McNulty, QMI Agency
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Will Power has finished second to Dario Franchitti in the IZOD IndyCar championship for the past two seasons.
This racing season, he is looking for a different result, beginning with Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Power lamented after his 2010 loss to Franchitti that it was his lack of good finishes on ovals that cost him the top spot in the championship.
Then all he did last season was go out and win six times including at Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5 mile oval, and place in the Top 5 in five of the seven oval tracks on the IndyCar calendar, and yet he still lost the title.
It was also a season where he nailed a record-breaking eight pole positions.
But untimely wrecks at the Honda Indy Toronto and at Iowa mid-season left him too far behind Franchitti to make up the points differential.
Some drivers in that spot might start to think that luck just isn’t on their side, but that would not be Power.
“I had a very close look once again at why we lost the championship last year because we won more races and more poles than anyone,” he said. “I don’t sit back and say it’s bad luck because I don’t think it’s really ever about luck. If you’re doing your job properly you tend to have good luck.”
Part way through last season Penske Racing put Tim Cindric on the pit box to guide Power and the results were impressive. Power thinks that it will pay dividends this season.
“Having another year with the same crew and then going into the year with Tim Cindric having worked with him for the second half of the year I think we’ll be a really strong combination,” he said.
But Power said that this season he has got more to deal with than just Franchitti with the likes of Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello now in IndyCar.
“The quality of the field has just gotten better and better and better,” Power said. “It’s kind of surprised me that it’s been a two-horse race the past few years because there’s a lot of guys in there who are bloody quick and capable of winning every weekend.
“I think it’s one of the toughest fields I’ve ever seen. The last two years you could see how competitive it was throughout the field. Usually you had the 26 cars stacked within one second in qualifying on the road courses. It’s just great to see.”
He also feels that with two new engine manufacturers — Chevrolet and Lotus — joining Honda in the series it will produce a more competitive grid.
“I think this year with the engine manufacturers, new car and all that it certainly will be mixed up,” Power said. “It’s going to be very interesting and unknown until we do the first race.”
As for Franchitti he has his own reasons for wanting to stay in front of Power and the rest of the drivers this season.
He already has four championship trophies on his mantel and a fifth would inch him closer to A.J. Foyt’s fabled seven championships.
He is currently on a three-consecutive wins streak with Target Ganassi Racing — his first championship came in 2007 with Andretti Green Racing. A fourth in a row this season would tie him with Mario Andretti and Sebastian Bourdais in that category.
Franchitti, like Power, thinks the line up in IndyCar this season will be as tough and deep as it has ever been.
“I think there are as many as 15 cars capable of winning races and eight or 10 legitimate championship contenders,” Franchitti said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I can’t wait for the season to begin.”
He said that in spite of his past successes he still seldom looks at the stats sheets as incentive at this point in his career.
“I don’t think about it that way,” Franchitti said. “We’re going to try to win the first race and — I hate to be boring about it — we’re going to try to win the championship by doing the best job we can.
“That’s the way we go racing. There’s no point getting carried away with the number. It could be the team’s fifth championship in a row. That’s not the way you go racing; not the way you think about it.”
But pressed just a little bit Franchitti admits getting to five championships is a good challenge to have.
“Five would be nice, I would say.”