Power, Hunter-Reay duel for title down stretch: Will Power dismisses the notion that with four of the five remaining IZOD IndyCar Series races on road/street circuits, the championship is his to lose. He doesn't waver, however, that he'll be in the hunt.
Power enters the eighth Edmonton Indy as a two-time winner (2011 and '09) and a two-time pole sitter (2010 and '09) in the four races on the City Centre Airport (old and current) under INDYCAR sanction. But with Ryan Hunter-Reay parlaying three consecutive victories into the driver's seat of the title chase, Power is 34 points back.
There's familiarity in the position, which drives the 31-year-old North Carolina resident. Last year, exiting the Toronto race, Power trailed Dario Franchitti by 55 points. Completing the Canadian doubleheader in Edmonton with a victory, the gap closed to 38 points.
"I understand what I've got to do to win the championship," the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car said. "It's still all about executing on the weekend and being mistake free in the pits, on the track, strategy wise, everything. It's got to come together for you. It doesn't matter if you're thinking, 'Oh, shoot, this is going to be easy for me because it's road courses; where in fact, it becomes very, very tough on road courses to win just because of the competitive nature of this year.
"There's no one dominant. There's no one getting all the poles. There's no one really winning all the road course races. It's really mixed up."
His teammate, Helio Castroneves, who's third in the standings, has three runner-up finishes at Edmonton in the past four years. Scott Dixon, who turns 32 on race day, is in fourth place with two victories and a third at Edmonton.
Power has two poles and two front-row starts in the six road/street course events this season to complement three victories and another top-five finish. Hunter-Reay has advanced to the Firestone Fast Six four times, with a best start of third in the St. Petersburg opener. Podium finishes at St. Petersburg and Sao Paulo augment his Toronto victory.
On the 2.224-mile, 13-turn City Centre Airport circuit that features three long straights intermixed with sharp turns, getting the new car's balance will be key to the 75-lap race (2 p.m. ET July 22 on NBC Sports Network).
"What it will take to win, which is, most of the time, good qualifying, a very good strategy and just really good pit stops," Power said. "I feel as though we are one of the quickest out there, and when things go right on the weekend I think we are always on the podium or we win the race.
"To win the championship, things have to go your way. Week in, week out, you've got to be knocking on the door. You've got to be up there with a chance to win every weekend, and if you can't do it, you accept what you've got and get the most out of it. You know, don't try to force the issue and have a DNF. That's how I see it; the guy that does that the best is going to win this year."
At Edmonton, Hunter-Reay has three top 10s (high of fifth in 2010) and started and finished seventh last year. His three-race streak has included the flat Milwaukee Mile, the .875-mile Iowa Speedway oval and the 1.75-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street course.
"It's been the best run of my career, but it's not something that's happened by accident," said Hunter-Reay, driving the Team DHL / Dr Pepper car this weekend. "Having been here at Andretti Autosport since 2010, it really feels like a family. We all know each other and get along really well. It's the kind of thing that can only happen over time, and I'm feeling that kind of connection for the first time in my career.
"The lows that I've been through in my career, like being relegated to driving a show car in 2005 and then not being able to find a ride at all for the 2006 season, make the highs that much better. Those disappointments have only made me stronger and hungrier now that I've found a home."
Past Edmonton, Power has an average finish of 3.8 in the next three road/street course events over the past two years totaling five races (three victories and a runner-up finish the highs). Hunter-Reay has an average finish of 7.8 (third place at Mid-Ohio in 2011 the high) over that span.
2. Rahal, Wilson hold helmet design contests: IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal are holding helmet design contests that will benefit charities close to their hearts.
The International Dyslexia Association has launched a competition for young people with dyslexia to design the race helmet that Wilson will use at the Grand Prix of Baltimore. The helmet will be raffled off with proceeds benefiting the IDA.
"Hopefully we will be able to raise some money for the IDA and maybe have it sold by the time the race comes around," said Wilson, who battled dyslexia as a boy.
Rahal announced that the Graham Rahal Foundation will be holding a helmet design contest. Fans will have access to a pre-made helmet template where a unique design can be created. The rules and template are available online at GrahamRahalFoundation.org. Designs must be submitted from July 18, 2012 to August 8, 2012 in accordance with the official contest rules.
At the conclusion of the submission period, Rahal will select the top five designs and post them on GrahamRahalFoundation.org. Fans will then be able to vote for the winning helmet design from August 8, 2012 to August 15, 2012. When voting concludes, the design receiving the most votes will be painted by Art Rotondo (ArtRotondo.com), who provides the art work for all of Rahal's helmets. Rahal will then wear the helmet during the pivotal IZOD IndyCar Series finale at the Autoclub Speedway in Fontana, California on September 15, 2012.
Following the race, the Graham Rahal Foundation will auction the helmet at Celebrity.eBay.com to raise money for both of its charities, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer and SeriousFun Children's Network.
Wilson has seen it all at Edmonton: Justin Wilson has finished first, second, third, fourth, fifth, eighth and 21st in Indy car races at Edmonton City Centre Airport.
He enters the Edmonton Indy this weekend as the lone active driver to compete in all seven (Champ Car and IZOD IndyCar Series) events. The race was held on a 1.973-mile temporary circuit from 2005-2010 and moved to the opposite corner of the airport and a 2.224-mile temporary circuit in 2011.
Wilson's 2006 victory separated the wins by Sebastien Bourdais, who also will compete this weekend. Scott Dixon and Will Power (the 2011 champion) also have won twice.
"It's a good atmosphere. The city and residents support the race and are very welcoming," said Wilson, driver of the No. 18 Sonny's BBQ car for Dale Coyne Racing. "It's perfect for our schedule."
There have been six different pole winners in the previous seven races, and only Power in 2009 has won the race from the pole. Takuma Sato was the pole sitter last July.
The 2011 race produced six lead changes on the 13-turn circuit that incorporates airport taxiways. The hairpin turns intermixed with three long straights proved to be a challenge for drivers and teams.
"Turn 10 last year was the hardest corner just because it was so bumpy," Wilson added. "Everywhere else was nice and smooth so it was a real compromise trying to get the car set up to work on the asphalt as well as some of the old concrete.
"We've been competitive on every type of track we've raced on and hopefully in Edmonton we can put it all together and get another strong result."
3. Of note: Dario Franchitti needs one more pole to reach 30 in his career. He is the active leader in Indy car podium finishes with 86, which is seventh on the all-time list. He will tie Bobby Rahal and Al Unser Jr. for fifth with two more podium finishes.
With a start at Edmonton, Tony Kanaan will tie Unser for second on the all-time consecutive start list with 192 dating to Portland in 2001. KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser is the leader with 211 starts. Scott Dixon with 130 consecutive starts and Marco Andretti with 107 are the only other active drivers with a streak of more than 100.
The Edmonton Indy will be the 100th start for Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe. He has accumulated six wins, 25 podiums and 13 poles. Teammate Will Power recorded his 50th start with Team Penske two weeks ago in Toronto.