FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Will Power will start the final race in his IndyCar championship chase from the next-to-last spot on the grid. Way up front on the pole is Helio Castroneves, Power's teammate and the driver with the most realistic chance of catching him for the series title.
After so much heartbreak over the last few years, Power doesn't expect anything to be simple. If the Australian intends to raise the IndyCar trophy for the first time Saturday night, he'll have to overcome poor track position, an eager teammate and the weight of his recent history.
With confidence befitting a race car driver, Power is eager for the challenges facing him under the lights at Fontana.
"We've got a long night ahead," Power said Friday, visibly frustrated by his poor performance. "It's far from over. I'm going to do everything possible to make it happen. ... You've got three hours to work your way to the front. I think that's got to be the mindset."
Indeed, Power has ample time to make up for his sluggish qualifying lap in a 500-mile race on the well-aged oval built by Roger Penske, his team owner. Qualifying results usually don't matter much at sizzling Fontana, with many drivers preferring to sit back early on while those in front burn more fuel.
Yet anybody familiar with Power's recent history was understandably alarmed by the familiar ring to his qualifying struggles. Power led the IndyCar standings heading into the final race in 2010 and 2012, only to lose the title in agonizing fashion both times.
Power trailed Dario Franchitti by 18 points heading into the final race of 2011, but Franchitti won the title when the race was canceled due to the 15-car crash that killed Dan Wheldon.
Even Castroneves, who also has never won an IndyCar series title after numerous near misses, couldn't take pleasure in Power's qualifying misfortune at Fontana.
"When he had that scenario happening, I was like, 'Oh my God,'" said Castroneves, who passed Rick Mears with his 41st career pole. "I was actually concerned, because we couldn't have that kind of scenario. I was having some doubts, but there's nothing you can do."
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