Mental calculations about the points situation following the Indy Japan 300 on Sept. 19 made Will Power briefly grimace.
Sure, he was pleased with the third-place finish – his highest on an oval in his career – that avoided further erosion of his championship lead over Dario Franchitti heading into the season finale. But couldn't the point margin for a season-long success story (five victories and eight pole starts) be just a little more comfortable?
“Of course, it couldn't be 14 or it couldn't be 13; it has to be 12, which means if Dario wins the pole and leads the most laps, he wins the title without winning the race,” Power said. “I just have to finish ahead of Dario.”
That's the simplest scenario for Power to wrap up his first IZOD IndyCar Series title, but certainly not the easiest in the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Franchitti, who's involved in his third championship-deciding race in the series, has 13 oval victories (including 2009 at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway).
“We had a good car (at Twin Ring Motegi), but Dario in three races has pulled to within a 12-point lead,” noted Power, who lost a good portion of his advantage at Chicagoland Speedway with a 16th-place finish while Franchitti won for the third time this season. “Great for the championship, and it's off to Homestead for a great finish. I'll be working hard on making sure I have a very good racecar.”
Power was injured last year and didn't compete in the October race, and he finished 25th in his IndyCar Series debut there in 2008 (when Homestead was the season opener). Both contenders and their teammates are scheduled to test on the oval Sept. 27.
Though he's less experienced at Homestead-Miami than Franchitti, who has four top-10 finishes in six starts in the series, Power's important podium finish in Japan was accomplished at a track he hadn't previously raced on.
“I don't think it will matter,” said Franchitti, who at Twin Ring Motegi was making his 100th IZOD IndyCar Series start. “I think (Power) will get up to speed very quickly. You just get out there and get the pace quickly. No reason why he can't do it at Homestead. We just have to make sure we beat him.”
That scenario would force more quick calculations based on whether he earned any of the three bonus points (one for winning the PEAK Performance Pole Award and two for leading the most race laps) coupled with Power's finishing place. In the event of a points tie, such as was the case between Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon in 2006, Power would earn the championship based on the first tiebreaker (five victories to three).
“It's a mountain to climb; an obstacle in front of you,” said Franchitti, who has accumulated 268 of his 575 points on the seven oval venues to earn the inaugural A.J. Foyt Oval Championship. “We have to be able to climb that and be ready. We're ready for a fight.”