IZOD IndyCar Series championship contenders met with the media ahead of this weekend's season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that will decide the title race.
Q: It's the second straight year it's come down to the two of you for the championship. Does the vibe feel any different this year? Is there anything there, any sort of feel, or is it similar to last year?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'd say it's very similar to last season, really. You know, I think in the middle of the season there was certainly more – I think there was a little more tension there with some of the stuff that went on, but at this point it feels very, very similar to me.
I see Will and the Penske boys as very, very difficult opponents, and that was the same last year. It's no different now. But our job is to go out and to beat them this Sunday.
WILL POWER: I think the biggest difference for me this year is just I'm a lot further along on ovals. I feel as though every time I go into a weekend I have a chance of winning them. Obviously, we're coming from behind this time, but, at the end of the day, I feel as though we've done everything as a team to prepare for this race. I think that we're in very good shape.
Obviously, no one knows what the outcome is, but we know that we've put everything into it this year, and hopefully we can come away with a win.
Q: Right out of the gate this year, starting at St. Petersburg, you two have been the story, ratcheted way up in Toronto, of course. Dario, when you're on the track in Las Vegas, is the No. 12 going to be the singular thing on your mind – where the No. 12 car is? Will, same question to you. The No. 10 car, where it is on the track, is that going to be pretty much your sole focus on Sunday?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it was proved at Kentucky again I'm not just racing Will and Will's not just racing me here. There's 34 cars this weekend on the grid at Vegas, and any one of them can create a problem or go out there and just flat-out beat us. At this point, I'm racing the whole field, as I always have. That's the way we'll be looking at things this weekend.
WILL POWER: Yeah, the situation we're in, our job is simple. We need to win the race. Whatever else happens is totally out of our control. So we're just focused on doing that and also getting the other two up there as well because, at the end of the day, if we finish one, two, three as a team, we win the championship.
Q: There's a lot of 1.5-mile tracks that IndyCars competed on. This is the first time this particular configuration has gone to Vegas. I know 1.5‑mile tracks are all different, but is there a way to maybe compare this? Is there anything this track reminds you of, say a Texas or some of the other 1.5 milers you've been on?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I would say this one is probably more Chicago‑like than Texas. I haven't actually run there in IndyCar. I've run there in the Sprint Cup and also the Nationwide Car. But I would say more Chicago than Texas.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it is. I think that's what it's going to be. I have a feeling this track is going to be easy, easy flat, which makes it very much a pack race. Also, with where it is, because the atmospheric pressure, we lose a bit of horsepower as well, something like 40 or so horsepower. So that makes it even more like a pack race. So to me it's going to be Chicagoland.
Q: You guys have had a lot of little tiffs this year, and you've expressed how much you respect each other. Can you talk a little bit about whether you actually like each other.
WILL POWER: No, we don't. (Laughter)
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's a tough one because we're in this fight. I think, regardless of if we get on, I think this year has definitely tested it on several occasions. Because we're in the middle of this fight, I don't think we can really think like that. We're out there to beat each other. I'm 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. I'm still – my job is to go out there and win and to do that for the Target organization, and that's very much what we're focused on.
WILL POWER: I'm sure, if we weren't competing against each other, that we would be friends, good friends. You just can't be friends with someone that you so fiercely compete with. It's impossible. It is for me, anyway. I respect him on the track, and we're friendly off the track in a way, and that's just how it's always going to be. It's just the way it is when you're competing against someone.
I had an instance with a teammate in 2007, [Simon] Pagenaud, and we just fiercely – we hated each other. We didn't even talk in the truck, but now we're best of friends now that we don't compete against each other. That's just the way this sport is.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think to put it in a historical context maybe, a lot of the guys I've competed with fiercely over the years, from Zanardi, Vasser, Montoya, all these type of guys, when one of them stops racing or you stop competing, then I think you become friends, and it's happened in a lot of cases because I think, when you go through these things and you fight as hard as this, I think it does create some sort of bond. But, obviously, not right now. Right now we're out there, and we're fighting as hard as we can.
Q: Dario, you're sort of reaching some rare company now in championships, and you're doing what Jimmie Johnson-type thing in NASCAR. Did you ever imagine that the possibility was there to win four titles and perhaps go on to win three or four Indy 500s?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think with the three we've won right now, I've always felt we had the capability to do it, but having the capability to do it and actually getting it done are two different things. So, very, very proud of the achievement of the championships and the Indianapolis 500s. As far as right now, I'm really just focused on this weekend and trying to make it four.
The whole organization, the Target team is very much of a similar thing. All the stuff that was done in the past, that's fun and everything, but this is about trying to get the job done this weekend.
Q: Will, has Roger gotten with you in the last few days to just discuss the weekend and the importance and perhaps what he expects from you?
WILL POWER: No, he hasn't. I think we all know what we've got to do. He doesn't have to tell us. That's what we're all employed to do. I'll see him on the race weekend.