Power surges into contention

Indycar

Last weekend’s Edmonton IZOD IndyCar race was exactly what Will Power needed following collisions in Toronto two weeks earlier with Dario Franchitti and Alex Tagliani. Power rebounded from that unhappy day to score a clean victory in Edmonton, his fourth of the year. The Australian led most of the race after passing polesitter Takuma Sato and held on to win by 0.8 seconds from Penske team-mate Hélio Castroneves and championship rival Franchitti. Thus did Power pull himself to within 38 points of the Scot with seven races to go in this year’s championship.

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“We really needed to come here and win, just to get the confidence back in the team,” said Power. “That was so hard at the end, certainly under braking trying to keep Hélio behind. Man, I’m really, really happy. I thought I had to be more aggressive in the race because we can’t lose any more points to Dario. A good day – I just drove every lap like qualifying. We’ve got to keep chipping away, just like Dario did with us last year.”

Following the race Power and Franchitti talked for the first time since their collision in Toronto. “I just went up and said ‘Good job’ to Will and then we talked about the race,” said the Ganassi driver. “For me, Toronto is in the past. I totally screwed up the last restart today and that got us back to 10th. But when I got into clean air I went a second a lap quicker and caught the five seconds up on Will and Hélio. But once I got there I couldn’t do anything with them.”

Castroneves enjoyed his best result of the year so far. He and Power ran into each other in this race last year and Hélio was fined for physically assaulting race officials. But this year the Brazilian kept his nose clean. “I had a chance to do something with Will but it was a bit tough,” he said. “I needed a solid result and we got it.”

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The reconfigured Edmonton track left most drivers cold. The old track was much faster and challenging, but the new layout is littered with slow corners resulting in a number of incidents although they were fewer in number than in Toronto. Pole-winner Sato fell to fourth after he was passed in one fell swoop by Power, Franchitti and Scott Dixon before he was hit and spun by Ryan Hunter-Reay. But the biggest loser from these incidents was Dixon who looked like a top-three finisher until IndyCar’s resident wild man EJ Viso drove into him. Dixon lost five laps while his car was repaired and although Scott retains third in the championship he’s now 108 points behind team-mate Franchitti.

“You get sick and tired of people doing bonehead moves,” said Dixon. “I saw it coming in the mirror but I had nowhere to go. Coming from six cars back and taking out somebody – I don’t know if [Viso] was looking at somebody in the stands or not really paying attention. It ruined a good day for us. We had a great car that I think had possibilities to win as long as everything went right, but unfortunately this has been the way our season goes this year. We’ve been qualifying well and been up front but it hasn’t been going our way.”

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So this year’s championship battle is a repeat of last year’s duel between Franchitti and Power, although this time the situation is reversed with the Australian playing catch-up. Can Franchitti win his third title in a row and fourth consecutive crown for Chip Ganassi? Or will Power come through to take Penske’s 13th title and the first since Sam Hornish in 2006?

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