SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Just two races stand between Will Power and his first IndyCar series championship. After a big victory in last week's race, he starts on the pole Sunday on a track he has utterly dominated for the past four years.
Power has been disappointed too many times to get excited about his chances, however. He isn't thinking beyond the twisting, treacherous Sonoma Raceway — but he's always thinking about Helio Castroneves, the teammate and friendly rival trying to chase him down.
"There's still a lot of points on the table and a lot of racing to come," Power said after setting the track speed record while winning the pole Saturday. "You've just got to focus on the job at hand and get the most out of every situation."
Power and Castroneves have put Team Penske in position for an overdue celebration as the circuit wraps up with events on both ends of California. Power takes a 40-point lead over Castroneves into Sonoma, with both drivers tantalizingly close to their first series titles.
"At this point, there's not much to lose," Castroneves said. "Hopefully we're going to have a great race. I feel the car is fast, and we're going to try to do everything we can. I don't know the strategy, even if we have to take some chances, which we should do. At this moment, not much (reason) to be conservative."
Tim Cindric is well aware Team Penske hasn't won the IndyCar championship since 2006, a surprisingly long drought for an elite team. Even though Cindric calls Power's races, the Penske Racing president won't anoint a favorite among Power, Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, who's still lurking in fifth.
After a Penske driver finished second in five of the past six years, they'll all race to win in wine country, no matter the standings.
"The rules don't really change internally as far as team orders, because team orders have always been, 'Just don't hit each other,'" Cindric said.
"Even though Roger runs Helio's car and I run Will's car, we know that the first priority is to give our team the best chance to win the championship," Cindric added. "Both of us will be very content with either one of the guys winning the championship."
It definitely matters to Power and Castroneves, who have both traversed rocky paths to the brink of a title.
After a serious crash in 2009, Power has three victories and a second-place finish over the past four years at Sonoma, seamlessly navigating the difficult track and the notorious wind gusts on the north end of San Francisco Bay.
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