Inside Racing continued
When Will Power closes his eyes he must see Dario Franchitti's No. 10 car charging after him. Power even probably hears the haunting theme from the movie Jaws whenever Franchitti's name comes to mind.
Franchitti is just 17 points behind Power, and with the last two races of the season on oval tracks, that definitely favors Franchitti, who has 16 IndyCar Series wins on ovals to Power's zero.
"I'm just going to try to win races because that is going to be a key to winning a championship," Franchitti said. "I'm chasing Will as hard as I can. We made good inroads last week. It was a great job by the team. As long as I keep doing that and keep getting wins, that will help in the championship."
Franchitti called Power "a man on a mission" at Chicagoland Speedway on Aug. 28, but that was before Power ran out of fuel with just four laps left. That dropped him to a 16th-place finish and saw his 59-point lead cut to 23 points. At Kentucky last Saturday night, that gap tightened even more when Franchitti finished fifth and Power eighth.
"Really, my night was quite good, although after my last stop I think I hit some oil from an earlier incident between Turns 3 and 4," Power said. "I pushed up straight towards the wall -- I was very close to hitting it. We have our work cut out for us for the championship, but we still have the lead and onward we go."
Franchitti continued to finish ahead of Power for the second time in the last three races. That has put him in position to become a serious threat to win the IndyCar title for the third time in his career and the second year in a row.
Franchitti has been involved in some serious points races including 1999 in CART when he actually finished the season tied with Juan Pablo Montoya but lost the title based on the tiebreaker which was most victories in the season. Franchitti would later win two of the closest title races in IndyCar Series history, including his 2007 championship when he passed Scott Dixon in the last turn of the final lap of the final race of the season. Franchitti also pulled one out last year when he took the lead with just six laps to go when Ryan Briscoe had to pit for fuel at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Now, the Scotsman is already in Power's head.
"That's part of the racing, isn't it," Dixon said of Franchitti. "It was an unfortunate finish for Will because he was quick in the race and Dario came from nowhere with strategy. I think this is perfect. It makes it more exciting for everybody. It's a long-shot for me in the championship. Now, I just want to win races. If I go out and do that and the others have bad luck, we can still do it but it's going to be tough.
"He's the luckiest guy I know. If I'm a betting man, of course I'm going with Dario. He's my teammate and I'll try to help him as much as I can."
When it comes to grabbing the spotlight, few players in all of sports understand that better than Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens. The NFL star has a propensity for grabbing headlines for a variety of reasons, including his unique personality and his electrifying style as a player.
Owens got the ride of his life during Saturday night's Kentucky Indy 300 as he was in the IZOD "Fastest Seat in Sports." Owens was in the backseat of a specially-prepared Honda IndyCar with two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk as the driver. The tandem got to start Saturday night's race ahead of the pace car, and then on the parade lap, Luyendyk cranked up the power to zip around the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway at near race speed before catching up to the rear of the field for the pace lap.
"The ride wasn't violent at all but I really felt the G-forces," Owens said. "I asked Arie how fast we were going and he said about 180 mph. You feel like you are sitting still and all of a sudden you take off like you are on a spaceship. What took the nerves away from it was I didn't know what to expect or what I was getting into it.
"I wish we could have taken another lap around the track with the rest of the drivers in the race. But I really felt the power of the car."
Owens joked that his other high-profile teammate, Chad Ochocino, wasn't riding this weekend.
"Batman is taking the job today while Robin is out doing something else," Owens said of his teammate. "I wouldn't call my partner in crime a wimp, but I'm the one taking this ride."
A 17-race IndyCar Series schedule for 2011 will be announced Friday in Indianapolis with no tracks from International Speedway Corporation (ISC) expected to be on the slate. IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said last week that despite a meeting with ISC representatives at Chicagoland Speedway before the IndyCar race on Aug. 28, it was "too little, too late" to keep any of the ISC tracks on next year's schedule. ISC officials have squawked about the $1.5 million sanctioning fee that IndyCar is requesting next season.
Among the major changes that will be unveiled: the race at Kentucky Speedway will be moved from Labor Day Weekend to Oct. 2, moving from a Saturday night race to a Sunday day race. It will be the next-to-last race of the season. If Bruton Smith, the chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., has his way, the IndyCar Series championship will be decided at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Bernard is attempting to get the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Bureau to sponsor the event with a large purse for the championship finale. Another idea that has been floated is to have two races that weekend, with a street race crowning the Mario Andretti Trophy winner on Day 1 with the championship finale taking place on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway the following day, according to sources.
That grandiose scheme may not become a reality in 2011, however, and if that cannot be completed in time for 2011, the final race of the season may go to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., which is ironically an ISC track.
"I don't see anybody running away with this Chase. I think it's going to be tight all the way down to the end and you're probably going to see three or four guys with a legitimate shot to win the championship in the last race. That's something that you really couldn't say in years past. Someone could prove me wrong and really go on a tear, but I feel like there's really been inconsistency with all race teams other than the 29 (Kevin Harvick) all year long. No one's really stepped up and been consistent over a 10-week period. It's tough for me to say who's going to do that." -- NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin forecasting the 2010 Chase.
NASCAR's 26-race regular season comes to an end as the last race takes place at Richmond Saturday night. And while there probably won't be very many surprises as to who makes the 12-driver field that will compete in the 10-race Chase, the Sprint Cup standings will hit the reset button after the Richmond race. Unfortunately, The Chase overshadows the race itself and when it comes to racing, the .750-mile Richmond short track provides some of the best racing all season.
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