Power Still PO’d As IndyCar Series Heads To Edmonton

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 22 2011

It might be best to keep the six-guns away from Dario Franchitti and Will Power this weekend in Edmonton. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Two weeks have done little to defuse Will Power’s frustration with IZOD IndyCar Series points-leader Dario Franchitti, whose controversial victory in the Honda Indy Toronto has the potential to spill over into practice and qualifying heading into Sunday’s Edmonton Indy.

Franchitti, the three-time and reigning series champion, scored his fourth victory of the season, third on the Streets of Toronto and 30th of his career July 10 in a caution-filled event. Franchitti finished 0.7345-seconds ahead of Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, with Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport third. In the process, Franchitti broke a tie with Rick Mears (29 wins) and now is one behind Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy, both of whom competed at Toronto.

Power, meanwhile, lost 36 points to Franchitti in the championship chase via his second DNF in a row. Power, of Team Penske, trails Franchitti by 55 points after starting on-pole at Toronto and finishing 24th following contact with the Scotsman and later in the event with Alex Tagliani. But the Franchitti incident clearly continues to rub Power wrong.

“He (Franchitti) had the choice to fall behind me, and (instead) he hit me,” Power said of the Turn 3 bump-and-run incident on Lap 56 of 85 that dropped him in the running order. “That’s just a simple fact. Result: I end up not finishing, and he ends up with the win.”

In a heated post-race interview, Power added: “I always race him clean and he always races me dirty.”

Franchitti classified Power’s remarks as a “slight exaggeration” during his post-race news

Dario Franchitti will take to the streets of Edmonton with a healthy points lead.

conference. “We’ve had contact once, which was (Toronto),” said Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Dallara/Honda. “I obviously was involved in it from the car. I subsequently watched it on TV, and I think it’s a racing incident at best. I don’t think I’m known throughout the paddock as a driver who races people ‘dirty.’ You guys (media) can check up on that. I don’t think I am.

“So I’m not really sure what Will is talking about in that. I will say in his defense, had that happened to me, I would have been steamed when I got out of the car, too, particularly if I’d have crashed late in the race. I don’t know how he ended up on the tires there but I would have been steamed, too. I understand his anger, but hopefully when he watches the replay on television he’ll realize it was a racing incident.

“But if he doesn’t, I can’t – I have no control over what Will thinks or what he chooses to say. I’m going to continue to race the same way that I’ve raced certainly since I’ve been in America. I’m going to keep doing that. Yeah, I’ll do that, but I’ll do the stuff I can control and if Will chooses to – if we chat about it and he chooses to calm down a little, then OK –and if he doesn’t, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Recall that Power exited Toronto last summer with a 42-point advantage over Franchitti in a title chase the latter won by five points in the season-finale. Power also served-up some choice words for Tagliani after their cars made contact in the closing laps en route to his DNF.

“We just need to go out and have a good result in Edmonton and see what happens after that,” said Power, who won on the former City Centre Airport circuit in 2009 and has been the pole-sitter three of the past four years.

Eight races remain on the 2011 schedule, including five on the road/street circuits that are Power’s specialty. While the window of opportunity hasn’t closed, Power admitted he can’t afford to throw away any more points.

“I’ve been training like mad over the last week and want nothing more than to put Toronto

Target Chip Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon, front, and Dario Franchitti finished well in Toronto.

behind me with a strong finish there,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Dallara/Honda. “I don’t get riled-up that often. But trust me, I’m a man on a mission to get Team Penske and Verizon another victory and I’ll be doing my best to make sure that happens in Edmonton.”

Franchitti reiterated that his suddenly sizeable points lead would not change his pursuit of
what would be an unprecedented third consecutive IndyCar title.

“The points thing is going to ebb-and-flow all throughout the year,” Franchitti said. “Scott looks really strong right now. He’s been in position to win a lot of races this year…so look for Scott to come on strongly. And Will, we know the level that he operates at, too. And then there’s another 10 or 15 people that can win any race right now; 20 cars within nine-tenths (in qualifying). It’s tough out there.

“By the time we leave Edmonton that lead could be gone, no doubt. That’s just the way this works. I’m not even thinking about the points lead. The number is immaterial until that last race. That’s when it counts. I mean, even at that point, I go out each week and try and do my very best. There was times (in Toronto) I didn’t know if I was going to finish first or 10th, but I was just trying to do the best I could out there.”

Overnight ratings for VERSUS’ broadcast of the Honda Indy Toronto were the highest for an IZOD IndyCar Series race on the network in the 56 metered markets. The 85-lapper on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit registered a 0.41 rating. Through six races, VERSUS has seen a 21 percent ratings increase over its 2010 season average.

A level-playing field awaits IndyCar regulars in Edmonton, the result of a reconfigured 2.556-mile, 13-turn City Center Airport circuit that will see competitors run counterclockwise.

“The (original 1.96-mile, 14-turn) course was good and fast initially but it was too hard to

The IZOD IndyCar Series will be on a revamped track in Edmonton this weekend.

pass on,” said Tony Cotman, president of NZR Consulting, which has overseen temporary street course design and builds for INDYCAR. “One of the big things we needed to focus on with this course was how to make the show better, and I think we’ve achieved that.

“What’s so unique about this track is it doubles back on itself so much that no matter where you sit you can see the entire track. It’s a spectacular area to Turn 1 surrounded by grandstands and people are right on the track.”

The straight from left-hand Turn 13 to the left-hand Turn 1, which incorporates pit lane, is the second-longest on the IndyCar calendar to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where right-hand turns lead into and out.

“I think that Sao Paulo proved that long straights work – at least for these cars,” said Cotman, who made a site visit last week. “There has been a lot of surface repair on portions of the track, making it relatively smooth for an airport. The passing zones are intended to be enticing, but if you make a mistake there’s plenty of room to get back in. I think it will be exciting and I expect extremely good racing.”

Native Canadian Alex Tagliani had the opportunity to drive the course during a recent promotional tour _ albeit in a passenger vehicle _ and approved of the modifications.

“Open-wheel racing with wings is very unique. You need long straightaways for people to draft and do a lot of braking to be able to pass,” said Tagliani, driver of the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda fielded by Sam Schmidt Motorsports. “Having the track built in a way where people in the grandstand are going to have a visual of three different opportunities for that is very unique.

“When you sit in the grandstand in Edmonton, you’ll see crazy speed and amazing action. IndyCar really needs places like this for passing. It’s going to absolutely be one of the best courses we’ll have this season.”

Scott Dixon is the event’s defending champion in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda. Dixon also won the inaugural IndyCar event in July 2008. Will Power set the circuit’s qualifying record at 116.991 mph last summer.

A unique track walk on Thursday gave drivers an up-close look at the revised layout, with the first practice session scheduled for Friday at 1:15 p.m. (EDT).

“In the first session you have to try things and make sure you find your way quickly there,” said Vitor Meira, who recorded his first top-five of the season at Toronto in the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda fielded by A.J. Foyt Racing. “The quicker you find your way, the more you can focus on the car. You have to figure out braking points, gears, turn-ins, which curbs to use and which ones to avoid, how much speed to carry into this corner and what is the best way to carry speed in _braking later or earlier? Finding your way around the course will be key to this weekend.”

The race will be telecast live Sunday in High Definition at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS and on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM Channel 94 and www.indycar.com.

The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Edmonton Twin 100s at Edmonton City Centre Airport on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 22 2011
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