Friday, June 24, 2011

IZOD Indycar Series Title Race All Even for Iowa Showdown

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Dario Franchitti
Will Power

Now the nail biting really begins for Dario Franchitti and Will Power. Last year's primary contenders in the IZOD Indycar Series are now level on points heading to the Iowa Speedway for this weekend's Iowa Corn 250 short track event. Following the contentious Texas doubleheader where the luck of the draw favored Will Power and vaulted him into a 21 point lead in the championship, Dario Franchitti made up the whole points gap last weekend at the Milwaukee Mile. Ten more races remain in the 2011 season and with the shift of Motegi from an oval to a road course event, there are only four ovals remaining, including Iowa. Based on last year's results, this could favor Power in the season championship as he has been dominant on road courses with more poles and wins than anyone else recently. By no means is this a done deal, however, as Dario knows how to get around a road course as well as anyone, and already has a win this year on the St. Pete street course under his belt. Now that the points race is even, perhaps everyone can forget about what happened at Texas and get down to the business of winning the championship.

Dario Franchitti eyes another Indycar Championship

Even though the top seven in Indycar points are separated by just 106 points, I still think it will come down to Penske and Ganassi teams fighting it out with Power and Franchitti showing the way. There is a maximum of 53 points available for each race and points for pole position and most laps led could end up deciding the championship when all is said and done. If Power can avoid DNF's or poor finishes on the remaining ovals, he should be in position to make a strong charge for the last road course segment of the schedule which begins in August at Sonoma. Since I was not able to shoot Milwaukee, it looks like my next opportunities to work an Indycar race will be at Mid Ohio and then Kentucky, where the season championship will be on the brink of being decided. My January prediction of Dario winning the season title still looks pretty good and it will be exciting to follow.

Will Power eyes his first Indycar season title

There could still be plenty of surprises as the rest of the season unfolds, as Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia have looked very strong charging into the top five in season points. Tony Kanaan has led the resurgence of KV Racing, sitting sixth on points with teammate Takuma Sato in ninth. Alex Tagliani has Sam Schmidt's effort in eighth with several strong showings while Power's Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe lurks in seventh. Danica Patrick has finally made it into the top ten for Andretti Autosport but the big spoiler could be Dario's teammate Scott Dixon who has not won yet in 2011. Scottie D could have a huge impact on how the championship is decided, especially if he gets on a roll with good finishes over the next month. My original predication for second place in the season title was Helio Castroneves, but he is mired in 13th, 138 points behind Dario and Penske teammate Power; he has a lot of work to do but he has shown the ability to mount late season charges in the past. With 2011 being the last season for the current chassis spec, teams will be willing to do about anything to get a race win and I expect the competition between the Penske and Ganassi teams to be as fierce as ever going down to the wire.

Indy fans check out 2012 spec car examples

Indycar continues to make big news as the official test team for the 2012 Dallara chassis was named this week. Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon and the Bryan Herta Autsoports team will take on those duties beginning in August when the first roller is to be made available. I will be keeping an ear to the ground for test dates at Indy so I can get some pictures of the new design on the track. I hope they bring it to Kentucky so the fans there can get a peek in October as development work continues. I can't wait to hear the next generation of Indycar engines once Chevy and Lotus join Honda in developing the new chassis.

While many of my Indycar friends are in Iowa this weekend, I will be going to Winchester Speedway's high banked half mile oval to shoot the ARCA series with my assistant Saturday night. It has been four years since ARCA ran at Winchester and other than Frank Kimmel, there may be no one with any experience at this fast and racy facility. Sparks will surely fly as ARCA's young guns like Ty Dillon get acclimated and challenge what is called "The World's Fastest Half Mile". Perhaps Kimmel can snap his non-winning streak which is close to three years now and show those young whippersnappers how it's done. Wherever you are this weekend, be safe and take lots of pictures. I know I will. See you at the track!

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