For the sixth season in a row, the Indycar Series championship will be decided at the final event, as the teams descend on Sin City, Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for 200 laps for all the spoils. On assignment at the very venue, our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon previews the Las Vegas IndyCar finale and takes a guess at whose number will come up in the championship decider…
By mid-season, short odds would have been on Dario Franchitti to kick back and ride to the series title. However, nobody thought to tell Will Power, who has clawed his way back into contention, even taking the points lead in Japan before the events of Kentucky two weeks ago put Franchitti back in the drivers seat.
Having already secured the Mario Andretti road course championship, the desire inside Power to win his first major championship since arriving Stateside in 2005 burns like a raging inferno, and the man himself will be the first to tell you that nobody remembers who finishes second.
With an 18-point deficit, Power needs pole position and to lead the most laps to reduce this to 15, and must then outscore Franchitti by this margin to take home the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup. No small feat, but victory will be even sweeter should everything come together for the brash Aussie to pull it off.
Team Penske’s first series trophy since 2006 will of course be welcomed by all at The Captain’s North Carolina headquarters with open arms – just reward for the countless hours of work that goes into the operation.
Throw a spanner such as Scott Dixon into the works. Same can be said for Ryan Briscoe and Hélio Castroneves. All three will be flying their respective team flags, but what role will each play to ensure their side stands strong when the chequered flag flies on Sunday afternoon.
Add in the competitiveness of Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Oriol Servià, Ryan Hunter-Reay among others into the mix. Danica Patrick’s final regular season race will be a further drawcard as she will no doubt want to go to NASCAR on the back of a positive result. The battle for Rookie of the Year honours between James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand also reaches its crescendo this weekend.
Top it off with a $5m bounty for any non-regular driver able to start from the back of the field and win. Dan Wheldon, Paul Tracy, Buddy Rice and Tomas Scheckter are among the eligible drivers competing for this Vegas jackpot.
I will be on location, trackside, ready to bear witness to what is sure to be a great battle, and to bid farewell to the current standard Dallara chassis, the current Honda engine and season 2011 overall.
The stakes have never been higher, and the time to bet big, roll the dice and risk it all is now. Who will prevail?
[Image via IZOD IndyCar Series]