IndyCar Driver’s Championship Up for Grabs
by Joe Jennings
Sonoma, CA – Not too long ago, Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti had a strangle-hold lead on the IndyCar driver’s championship. The Scot had a 65-point advantage over the others but due to a few twists and turns, the lead has diminished to a mere eight markers going into the Motorola 300 at Infineon Raceway.
Scott Dixon has come along rapidly as has Tony Kanaan, Franchitti’s best-friend in racing and his teammate. Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr. are mathematically in the hunt but are long shots at best.
“A mistake in the pits at Kentucky (Speedway) cost us,” Franchitti said. “Even though we had problems at Michigan (International Speedway), there were no gains or losses in points. Now it is very close. Does it change our game plan? Maybe it does.”
Franchitti hopes the bad luck is behind him. “I knew it would end at some point, but I didn’t thing it would stop suddenly.” He believes the competition is so keen that anything can happen in the final three races of the season, two of which are on road courses and the finale on the high-speed oval at Chicagoland Speedway.
While Franchitti’s pace has slowed, Dixon and his Target Chip Ganassi team are on a roll with momentum on their side. “The three (wins) in a row seemed to be a huge gain, even though Dario was finishing second,” Dixon said. “The last two races we’ve been able to gain points, and this weekend we are very confident. With three races to go, I think we have a good shot.”
Wheldon started the season as a force to be reckoned with but then his train de-railed, so his mission now is to help his teammate Dixon secure the championship. “Hopefully, I can assist Scott (Dixon) in a professional manner,” he said. Regarding his season, he added, “We have had more downs than ups but I have enjoyed the season. Indianapolis is my favorite race and I place more importance on it than I do championships. But we lost our way during the month of May.”
Kanaan is pleased to have turned his season around, particularly in the most recent races. “We have taken half of their points away from the 100 (we were behind), but I think it is going to be very difficult to catch them. I’m being realistic, and I’m just looking at winning races now. Like Dan said, I’ll do everything in a professional manner to help my teammates win.”
Franchitti affirms that he is comfortable with the pressure at hand. “The pressure has been on us all of the season, from the first race of the season,” he stated. “You can’t expect a perfect season.”
They all know anything can happen in a race and the driver who experiences the least problems will get to smell the roses when the checkered falls on the 2007 season on September 9.