It’s amazing how quickly things can change. One month ago, Dario Franchitti held a 62-point lead over Will Power, more than can be gained or lost in one race. At the time, Franchitti held all the momentum and seemed set to cruise to this season’s championship. It’s not unlike the scenario Power faced last year, with a large point lead and steamrolling momentum as the series entered the final four races of 2010. However, a botched pit stop strategy at Chicagoland saw him finish that race in 16th while Franchitti took the win and seized back momentum, soon taking the points lead for good and claiming the championship over Power.
This year, the exact opposite is playing out. Franchitti, with everything going his way, crashed with Takuma Sato while leading in Loudon. Though Power didn’t win that day, his fifth place finish was more than enough to knock a big chunk out of Franchitti’s lead. Two wins later and Power is a mere five points behind Franchitti with three races left.
“That was the toughest race I've done all year," Power said of his victory in Baltimore. "I'm just exhausted, but that was a championship run." That “championship run” gave Power his sixth win of the year, beating out Franchitti’s victory tally of four so far. Remember that number going forward. Unless Franchitti can two of the final three race, Power will hold the tiebreaker if they end up tied on points after Las Vegas, a real possibility given the slim margin that currently separates them.
Franchitti, for his part, says he isn’t concerned about Power’s comeback. “What's the point in getting concerned? It doesn't make you any quicker,” he said curtly.
Though Scott Dixon is also a part of the picture, at 77 points back, it will ultimately come to Power and Franchitti to decide this year’s a tile, just as it was last year. And, just as it was in 2010, the 2011 title fight is seeing a driver with a sizeable point margin unable to close the deal, allowing his rival to close the gap.
Kanaan’s Comeback the Highlight of the Weekend.
Though much of the pub will go to Power for his dominant victory, the title of “Hero of the Day” probably should go to Tony Kanaan and the No. 82 Geico KV Racing Technology entry. After going airborne over Helio Castroneves in the morning warm up when the brakes failed, the pit crew brought out a spare car (it was actually Viso’s spare that was set up to run an oval), placed a street course setup on it, put Kanaan back in the car, and used speed and strategy to somehow finish a remarkable third.
Kanaan seemed somewhat speechless with the result after an enormously trying weekend. "Wow, what a day,” said a relieved and happy Kanaan. “We had a problem in the morning warm-up that caused a huge crash and destroyed my primary car. My guys really worked hard to get the backup car together. I mean, everyone from the team was helping to get the car ready for the race. Then we start 27th on a road course and finish third... What can I say? I'm as happy as I can be with this podium. Finishing third was a victory for us. It was a great performance from the whole GEICO-KVRT-Lotus team at GEICO's hometown. It was awesome, great calls from my guys in the pits, huge support from my team, Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy (Vasser) and Mark (Johnson) and a hard race where we fought for every inch and used every opportunity we had."
In the race for “best of the rest” behind the top three, Kanaan trails Newman/Haas’ Oriol Servia, who finished second, by 27 points. Though it remains to be seen if he can nip Servia for that spot, Kanaan’s 2011 season is nothing short of outstanding, especially considering he did not have a seat until the week before the season opener in St. Pete.