Ganassi likes his team’s position; notes

By Dave Lewandowski

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Chip Ganassi reiterated what Dario Franchitti has been saying in the build-up to the IZOD IndyCar Series championship race this weekend: “The pressure’s not on us.”

The onus then, according to the Target Chip Ganassi Racing owner, is on Team Penske’s Will Power to perform in the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Power takes an 11-point lead into the 200-lap race under the lights Oct. 2. Franchitti has two victories and four other top-five finishes on ovals this season, and picked up a bonus point Oct. 1 by winning the PEAK Performance Pole Award on the 1.5-mile oval.

Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, built his points total off five victories on road/street circuits, 29 bonus points for a series-record eight pole starts and race laps led. He has two top-five finishes on ovals, including third place at Twin Ring Motegi two weeks ago.

It’s the fifth consecutive year the title has been decided in the final race and the 12th time in the 15 years of the series.

“I think we have an edge,” Ganassi said. “Coming into this situation, I think the pressure is off us. It’s very hard to do what our competitor has to, which is maintain. While I’d rather not have a 12-point deficit on our side, I like our position better.”

His reasoning is partly because the team has won the past two championships (with Franchitti and Scott Dixon), partly because Team Penske has won one championship since moving to the series in 2002 (2006 with Sam Hornish Jr.) and partly because of having a seasoned veteran such as Franchitti.

“It’s his been there, done that thinking,” Ganassi said of Franchitti, who is aiming for a record-tying third IZOD IndyCar Series title. “He knows how far he car push his car. His engineer and crew chief are all seasoned individuals in the sport and have won championships. We feel good about our guys.

“He has all the tools he needs and this would be one more feather in his cap.”
Ganassi, who is Franchitti’s race strategist, said the No. 10 team entered the championship-deciding weekend in ’09 as the underdog. An alternate fuel strategy during the caution-free 200-lap race led to the race victory and championship.
“This business doesn’t mean anything if you’re not here to win. We’re fortunate to have a great group of people and sponsors to work with. We’re in this sport for weekends like this.”

Power earns driver award
Power was voted as Driver of the Year (third quarter) by a panel of 20 motorsports journalists. He edged Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.
“We’ve had an awesome season at Verizon Team Penske and without a great third quarter we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in — winner of the Mario Andretti Road Course Championship and battling for the overall IZOD IndyCar Series title,” Power said.

Andretti Autosport driver clinches USF2000 title
Sage Karam, 15, driving for Andretti Autosport, clinched the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda on Sept. 20 at Road Atlanta.

Karam, of Nazaeth,. Pa., also earned the CP Fuels Rookie of the Year Award. Teammate Zach Veach, 15, finished second in the standings.
The series is part of the Road to Indy ladder system to the IZOD IndyCar Series. The other levels are the Star Mazda Championship and Firestone Indy Lights.

Of note
The parents of Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton will attend the race. … Sam Schmidt Motorsports drivers J.K. Vernay, Philip Major and Pippa Mann met with individuals with disabling injuries as part of the team’s Day at the Races program. Team owner Sam Schmidt suffered a spinal cord injury in a testing accident in 2000. He formed the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation to fund research, treatment and rehabilitation.


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