DARIO FRANCHITTI HAS NEXT FOUR INDYCAR RACES CIRCLED
BY CARLOS MENDEZ
No one has to tell Dario Franchitti to watch out for Will Power, the young Australian gunning for his Izod IndyCar Series championship.
Power took the series lead two weeks ago when he won at Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Franchitti finished fourth following a crash.
Now the season enters a four-race stretch of ovals, where the defending series champion Franchitti excels and Power remains a work in progress. It starts with the most famous race of all, the Indianapolis 500.
Throw in the fact that it's the 100th anniversary of the race, and it figures to not only make history, but set up the rest of the season.
"Bear in mind, we're 14 points behind, and I made a mistake in Brazil a couple of weeks ago that cost us at least that many points," Franchitti said. "We've beaten him this year. He's definitely closer to me right now in points than he was at this time last year in the championship. But the guy is doing a hell of a job.
"We definitely can win the championship. But those are all thoughts of the future. The thought right now is to win the race in a couple of weeks."
Franchitti is seeking his third Indy victory in seven starts. Power has finished 13th, fifth and eighth in three Indy starts.
And it's more than a personal rivalry. Franchitti and Power, first and second in the points standings, are the top drivers for the two strongest teams in the series -- Target Ganassi and Penske. Ganassi has won two of the past three Indy 500s, with Scott Dixon in 2008 and Franchitti last year. Franchitti also won in 2007 with Andretti-Green. Helio Castroneves won in 2009 for Penske.
"We have a strong rivalry with everybody," Franchitti said. "The competition level is very high. It seems like the Penske guys, week in and week out, are the guys we are fighting with. Yeah, there's definitely that rivalry there. We want to beat them. In order to win this thing, we're going to have to pass those guys, and they're going to be very tough to beat."
But Franchitti said other drivers are capable of winning.
"There are probably 10 people with a legitimate shot at winning this thing," he said. "I think it's a very open field. All we can do at the Target team is put ourselves in position to win. Come up with the best car, the best strategy, and we'll see."