With five races to go, Will Power says he can still beat Ryan Hunter-Reay and win the IndyCar championship — but the margin for error is near zero.
“I feel I’m a contender, I really do,” said Power Tuesday in a conference call.
“I feel like if we get everything right in the next five races we have a legitimate chance of winning the championship.
“We’re one of the quickest out there, and when things go right on a weekend, we’re always on the podium or we win the race.”
Power trails Hunter-Reay by just 34 points heading into Sunday’s Edmonton Indy event, but he dismisses the suggestion that with four of the last five tracks being road/street courses, the championship is his to lose.
“It’s not a matter of thinking this will be easy for me because it’s road courses,” he said.
“In fact, it’s become very tough on road courses to win just because of the competitive nature (of the circuit) 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.”
Nevertheless, the 31-year-old Penske driver is still king of the road courses and has been for the previous two seasons.
He has won IndyCar’s Mario Andretti Trophy for most points on road courses in each of the last two years and is on pace to win it again in 2012. He has 227 points in six starts on the road courses this season. That’s 28 points more than Hunter-Reay. His three wins this year (back-to-back-to-back victories at Alabama, Long Beach, and Sao Paulo) were all on road/street courses.
But Hunter-Reay also has three wins, and is aiming for a fourth consecutive victory this weekend. He not only has the overall points lead at 335, he’s tied with Tony Kanaan for the most points (136) in the four oval races this year.
Power is a distant 17th on the ovals.
It’s a breakout season for the 31-year-old Hunter-Reay, with Andretti Autosport, but Power said it’s not that surprising.
“He’s always been strong. This year he’s just been more consistent,” he said.
“He’s executing week in, week out. In my opinion he’s the strongest guy in IndyCar racing right now because he’s strong in both disciplines —oval and road.”
The season is turning into a dreaded case of deja vu for Power, from Toowoomba, Australia.
He narrowly lost the points championship to Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2011 only to see Franchitti fall back to eighth this year, but have Hunter-Reay take his place.
Power took over the points lead after winning the second race of the season in Birmingham on April 1. He held it through seven races and more than three months. But the lead slowly drained away as the problems mounted: contact with Mike Conway at Indianapolis, a costly drive-through penalty for blocking Tony Kanaan at Texas, contact with E.J. Viso at Iowa, and contact with Josef Newgarden two weeks ago in Toronto.
Outside of his three wins, Power has not found the podium in 2012
Edmonton appears the best place to turn that around.
Power has been dominant in the Alberta capital, winning last year’s event on the new 2.2-mile, 13-turn temporary street course at the City Centre Airport.
He also won it in 2009. In 2010, he started on pole and finished second.
The stars are aligned for Sunday, but Power said a lot still has to go right.
“It’s still all about executing on the weekend and being mistake-free in the pits, on the track, strategy-wise, everything,” he said.