Iowa Speedway should be a very welcome sight for Dario Franchitti.
The IZOD IndyCar Series driver has mastered the .875-mile track better than anyone in its relatively short history with open-wheel racing. Franchitti could use his winning ways in Central Iowa to move toward a third straight season series points championship.
Franchitti will try to break his tie with Will Power atop the IndyCar Series points standings during the Iowa Corn Indy 250 Saturday at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. The race is at 7 p.m. Practice and qualifying are Friday.
Franchitti is coming off his third victory of the season, winning the Milwaukee 225 last Sunday and eclipsing Power’s 21-point lead. Power also has three wins as they are deadlocked with 271 points. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver doesn’t put more emphasis on one date of the season, unless it is at the Brickyard.
“Well, the whole point of the championship, the points at the end are the same at the end and all the races in between,” Franchitti said during a teleconference Wednesday. “Like I said, you focus on each race weekend and try to get the most out of that. No race is more important than another, except for the Indianapolis 500. That’s the one that really stands out to me as the one race of the season that’s any different than all of the others.”
A win at Iowa would move him into sole possession of ninth on the all-time list. Currently, he has 29 and is tied with Rick Mears. Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais are tied for seventh with 31. Joining some of the elite drivers in IndyCar history seems a bit strange to the Scot.
“No, it doesn’t really sink in,” Franchitti said. “I hear somebody say it and I think they’re just kidding or in a couple of minutes they will tell the real story.”
A win would mean a third straight winning weekend. Momentum is building, although he takes it a race at a time.
“It’s always good to win, absolutely, and it brings everybody up,” said Franchitti, who also has wins at the road course in St. Petersburg (Fla.) and Texas Motor Speedway. “We won a couple of races in two weeks now and we would very much like to keep the ball rolling, but it’s going to be very, very tough.”
The race at the Iowa Speedway hasn’t been like all the others for Franchitti. He has owned the field for the most part when he runs there. Franchitti won the inaugural event in 2007. He didn’t compete the following year, but returned in 2009, claiming the checkered flag. Last year, he was in contention before a failed gear box literally stalled his chances for a third victory, dropping him from contention to the pits.
“I think I’ve been lucky to (have) great cars at Iowa,” Franchitti said. “I know what I need out of the car, from the first year, I have a feeling – I know what I need to have. And with my engineer and all of the guys on the target team, we have managed to find that the last couple of years.”
A win here would be beneficial to gain a slight edge over Power, a stronger road course driver, with a stretch of road courses coming in the IndyCar schedule.
“Will is a terrific competitor, there’s no doubt about it,” Franchitti said. “And his team is backing him up 100 percent.”
Power finally broke through with a victory on an oval for the second of twin races at Texas. He has had some success at Iowa Speedway. In 2010, Power captured the pole, which is one of 20 career times for the Team Penske driver.
“Iowa, that’s an awesome track,” Power said while previewing the race. “It’s a short oval. It’s great for racing because it’s two lanes. It makes it easy to pass.
“Last year, it was my first oval pole. It was going well. I had a bit of a ‘coming together’ with (driver) Milka (Duno). I think I lost a couple of positions after that.”
The strong field adds to the tough task at hand for Franchitti and Power. Despite they’re head-to-head battle in the points race, they know it will be more than a two-man battle when the green flag drops Saturday.
“I think you’re racing everybody out there,” Franchitti said. “I just look at it as one race at a time. Just Iowa this weekend, go out there and win that, and if we can’t, try and finish second. Just try and do the best you can every single weekend.”