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Dario Franchitti has run the numbers and dissected the scenarios for what it will take to earn an IZOD IndyCar Series record-tying third championship, and in this situation the saying “every point counts” is certainly appropriate.
Franchitti bumped Will Power, his lone title contender in the 200-lap Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 under the lights Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the provisional pole, and earned his second PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season with a two-lap average of 213.187 mph. That gave the Scot one of the three available bonus points on the weekend to close to 11 points of Power.
It's the fifth consecutive year that the championship will be decided in the final race of the season.
“They were talking to me about $10,000 (for the pole award) and I said, ‘I’ll give back the $10,000 if I can have another bonus point,’ ’’ said Franchitti, who started and closed the 17-race season with the pole position. “It’s very important. I’ve said all week that Will had a pretty serious advantage here. The easiest way to do it and to take all doubt out of the equation is to qualify pole, lead the most laps and win the race. It’s going to be very difficult to do, but we’ve taken the first step.”
Franchitti, who won the race and his previous championships from the pole in 2009 and ‘07, will another if:
• He wins the 200-lap race and Power finishes third or lower.
• He wins the race and leads the most laps for two bonus points.
• He makes up 12 points (Power has the edge in a tiebreaker with five victories to Franchitti’s three), which carries several scenarios. First place is worth 50 points, 40 for second, 35 for third, etc.
“It would be nice to lead the whole race, but we'll see what happens,” he said. “There are so many unknowns; it's just impossible to predict those things.”
Power, who had a two-lap average of 212.580 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, will start third. He was bumped off the front row by Franchitti’s teammate, Scott Dixon (212.908), the 23rd of 27 qualifiers.
“It's all about a championship,” said Power, who tested at the track on Sept. 27 along with Franchitti and nine others. “If that means winning the race, if Dario happens to have led the most laps, at that point I'll be doing everything I can to win it. Maybe take some more calculated risks.”
He’ll be joined on Row 2 by Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe (212.158). National Guard Panther Racing’s Dan Wheldon (211.933) and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Justin Wilson (211.630; career best on an oval) will share Row 3. Panther/Vision Racing’s Ed Carpenter (211.444) and Andretti Autosport’s Tony Kanaan (211.392) will be on Row 4.
"We kept working on the car and got it perfect for qualifying," Wilson said. "I just rode the white line all the way around and I think it's a great start to the weekend. Now we are just trying to keep that going for the race and to make sure that we have a good car in traffic. Ideally, we are going to try and get a top-six result as well and that will finish the season on a high and be great for everyone at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing."
Dixon is in a points race of his own with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, who will start 10th (on Row 5 with KV Racing Technology's Takuma Sato). Castroneves holds third place by four points.
"My main goal is to try to get back up to third in the points," the two-time series champion said. "I'll go out there and run my race. If I can win the race, that's going to be the main goal. It's one of those things until you see how the race goes, see how quick and competitive both Dario and Will are, whether that changes the strategy if we do something off the wall to try to win the race from another direction.
"I think it's going to be a fierce race at the front between five or six cars."
Chip Ganassi Racing
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