Last year, Dario Franchitti stormed back to not only win the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, but the inaugural AJ Foyt Oval Course Championship Trophy as well.
This year, while Will Power and Franchitti mix it up for the 2011 overall championship, the Foyt Trophy is also still on the line. Visits to Kentucky and the season finale in Las Vegas will decide who wins both the Foyt Trophy and the Series championship. Chip Ganassi’s drivers are currently on top of the oval points, but both remaining tracks should feature full, competitive fields and the usual dose of unpredictability. In other words, there’s a whole lot of racing still to be done.
With up to 53 points available per race, a large number of drivers are not mathematically eliminated yet. However, realistically, only the Top 4 or so really still have a shot at the Foyt Trophy. Here’s a quick primer on your Top 10 in oval points going into the final two races of the season:
1) Scott Dixon (181 points)
Dixie hasn’t won an oval this year, but he’s had very few poor outings, which is why he remains on top. He’s racked up 4 oval podiums, which could easily be augmented with a victory in one of these last two races.
2) Dario Franchitti (164 points)
Dario’s poor result at New Hampshire has been largely cancelled out by his win at Milwaukee earlier in the year. He should be in his usual excellent form for the last two races, and you know he’ll be looking to again use the ovals to get the overall advantage over Power. If something happens to Power in the finale, it’ll be interesting to see how hard he’ll race the other competitors if the Foyt Trophy remains on the line.
3) Will Power (145 points)
Power won the second race in Texas (drawing a high starting spot didn’t hurt) for his only oval victory of the year. His season ended poorly at the Homestead finale in 2010; if he avoid the mistakes of a year ago, he still has a shot of collecting the Foyt Trophy along with his Andretti Trophy and the Series championship. The margin for error if he wants the sweep is pretty low, however.
4) Oriol Servia (144 points)
Servia hasn’t won yet this year, though he’s been close during events such as the rain-muddled New Hampshire. Realistically, even though he’s a longshot, he’s the last driver on this list with any sort of realistic scenario for winning the Foyt Trophy. The super-consistency he’s shown this year would need to finally equate into some wins for it to happen, though.
5) Marco Andretti (126 points)
Marco isn’t mathematically eliminated, but his inconsistency this year has ensured he isn’t any higher than this spot. He gave us one of the best battles of the year in winning the duel at Iowa, but poor finishes at Texas and New Hampshire have in part squandered that. He could win either event, or he could be first car out. That’s the sort of season it’s been for the young legacy.
6) Tony Kanaan (124 points)
If not for the Scheckter-Andretti sandwich incident at New Hampshire, TK would likely be much higher in the standings. He finished P2 to Andretti in their epic Iowa battle, and before that roared back from a late pit stop for P4 at the Indy 500. Kanaan hasn’t won yet this year, but there will be few drivers more fun to watch as he tries to rectify that issue in the last pair of races.
7) Danica Patrick (120 points)
It seems like it’s been a turbulent time for Danica lately, but she should have a pretty good shot at finishing her INDYCAR career in good form on the last two ovals. Both Kentucky and Las Vegas will likely see some attrition, but Danica is always great at finishing races—a talent that should especially come in handy at the next two events.
8) Graham Rahal (119 points)
No one (with the exception of Simona de Silvestro) seems to have been the recipient of more poor luck this year than Graham Rahal, but he’s definitely shown that he can run up front with the best of them. With a P3 at Indy and a P2 in Milwaukee, we know he can compete on the ovals—it’s all about the qualifying effort, race effort, and a bit of luck all finally coming together for his team.
9) Ryan Briscoe (116 points)
After a rough start to the oval season at Indy (P27), Briscoe was able to bring home some decent finishes at both Texas races, Iowa, and New Hampshire. He won Kentucky in ’09, but also crashed out early there last year. He’s still looking for his first win of the season, but you don’t want to count him out just yet.
10) Ryan Hunter-Reay (113 points)
On the ovals this year, Hunter-Reay has known the highest highs (winning at New Hampshire) and lowest lows (failing to qualify for Indy). He’s finished in the Top 10 7 of the last 8 races, including his win at New Hampshire and a P8 at Iowa. Although Andretti Autosport has been all over the place on oval setup this year, he could be primed for a hot finish over the last two races.
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.