From the last oval race, the Iowa Corn 250 in June, we find ourselves on the home stretch of races to separate the contenders from the pretenders for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series Championship.
Our resident IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon dusts off the tarot cards once again to predict the possible outcomes of this weekend’s round at Chicagoland Speedway…
While the Mario Andretti road-course championship has been emphatically won, the A.J. Foyt oval- course championship is still alive and being fiercely contested. Scott Dixon currently leads the standings in this minor championship, with a 3-point lead over team-mate Dario Franchitti. The top Penske driver in these standings is Ryan Briscoe, 14 points back.
Chicagoland Speedway, located south-west of “the windy city” of Chicago itself, sits near to the town of Joliet, Illinois. There is no doubt this speedway has played host to some of the most nail-biting finishes ever witnessed in top-flight American open-wheel racing. The best example would be from 2002, when Sam Hornish Jnr finished ahead of Al Unser Jnr by 0.0024 of a second. That’s 24 ten- thousandths of a second. The gap was completely indistinguishable to the naked eye at racing speed.
The overall series championship is now Will Power’s to lose. Definitely a road-course specialist, Power will need to prove his versatility on the 1.5 mile ovals to improve, maintain, or limit the damage done to his 59-point lead over his closest championship rival, Dario Franchitti. With a maximum of 53 points available per race, and a maximum possible scoring difference of 43 points, even with the worst possible scenario of a last-place classification for Will Power, with Dario Franchitti winning from pole and leading most laps, Power is guaranteed to leave Chicago with the championship lead. Obviously though, Power only has one “get-out-of-jail-free” card to play, which is only available for this race, as the situation may be different again next time out.
Having said all that, Power is still driving the best car in the field, and is not completely inept when it comes to the ovals, but while the risk is greater, with cars racing much closer together for longer periods and at much greater speeds, the reward of the series championship gets closer with every race that passes. Dario Franchitti will not be biding his time and will know that the longer it takes to close the points gap, the greater the pressure will shift to him.
[Original image via Motor Racing Network]