Will Power's victory Sunday at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway win gave the Penske Racing driver a 59-point IndyCar Series championship lead, but he still reckons it's a wide open race.
"I don't think this championship is almost mine," Power said after his fifth win of the season. "There's a lot of racing to go. Four races, a lot can happen. Really, whatever the buffer is, you can lose a lot of that in just one race. I'm going to race those ovals like I want to win the championship. I think I've got enough experience now and I think we'll be very strong."
The IZOD IndyCar Series "final four" will be contested on 1.5-mile ovals – each that possess a unique characteristic or two. Power has competed on all but the egg-shaped Twin Ring Motegi (Sept. 19) track, and his best finish in two races at Chicagoland Speedway (Aug. 28), Kentucky Speedway (Sept. 4) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 2) is fifth at the track in Joliet, Ill., in 2008.
Power started from the pole – one of his series-record eight – and finished fifth at Iowa Speedway for a high-water mark in the four-oval set earlier this season. He might not have as much experience on the ovals as his closest pursuers – Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon; both two-time series champions – but the 59-point spread is a comfortable cushion.
"It's a fairly large deficit, but it's four tracks we've run well on," said Franchitti, who has won or finished second at three of the four (best finish at Kentucky was sixth in 2004 and '09) tracks. "There are places we can do very well at.
"I don't underestimate the challenge at all. Will is going to be quite strong. People are writing him off because of his lack of experience on the ovals, but he'll be right up there. We have to do a better job. We'll be pushing 100 percent."
Dixon, runner-up to Power's No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car at Infineon, has finished second at Chicagoland each of the past four years (and five overall). He's won at the three other tracks in the past two seasons. Dixon has been in a similar position as Power with four races left - 65 points ahead of Helio Castroneves in 2008. He won the title after the 17 races by 17 points.
"I think it's exciting for our team," Dixon said of the hunt. "We'll try and just keep Will back in the pack and take some points off him. "Obviously, my job is going to be to try to help Dario and myself close the gap as much as possible, apply as much pressure as possible, and hopefully put them under enough that they make mistakes. I think that's really the only options left for us.
"We have to work together as a team, obviously finish 1-2 to try to overcome the points deficit at the moment," Dixon said.