Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Even though eight drivers remain mathematically eligible for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, Will Power is the one who's in the driver's seat for the title with just two races to go.
Power finished second in last Sunday's race at Sonoma, Calif. and widen his lead to 36 points over Ryan Hunter-Reay, who placed 18th after his incident with Alex Tagliani late in the race. Hunter-Reay also received a penalty for avoidable contact with E.J. Viso in the late going.
Helio Castroneves finished sixth at Sonoma and fell 41 points behind Power, his Team Penske teammate, while Scott Dixon's 13th-place run there put him 54 points out of the lead. Simon Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Briscoe, who won at Sonoma, are still mathematically eligible.
Dario Franchitti, who has claimed the series championship the last three years, is now out of title contention. Franchitti currently sits ninth in the point standings.
Power won three of the first four races this season but has yet to score another victory. He has finished either second or third in the last three events.
"I just want to win another race," Power said. "Wins are right there, but we're not getting them. You have to think of the championship as well. If we have the car to win, we go for it. Obviously, as you get further into the season, you become more aware of what these guys are doing, if they're behind you or in front of you, and you know how aggressive you've got to be."
IndyCar runs its penultimate race on Sunday in downtown Baltimore. If Power leaves Baltimore with a lead of 54 points or more over his closest competitor in the standings, he will clinch his first series championship. He has finished second in points the past two years.
The Grand Prix of Baltimore is the final road/street course race this season. Power won last year's inaugural event on this two-mile temporary street circuit, which recently underwent a few modifications. The changes included the removal of the frontstretch chicane and the widening of the right-hand turn one.
"I have an idea of what they're going to change, and I think it's going to make for better racing," said Power, who started on the pole and led 70 of 75 laps in the 2011 Baltimore GP.
After the July 22 race at Edmonton, Hunter-Reay held a 23-point lead over Castroneves and a 26-point advantage over Power. But Hunter-Reay has dropped 79 points to Power in the last two events. He finished 24th in the Aug. 5 race at Mid-Ohio due to engine failure during the final laps.
Hunter-Reay, though, is far from giving up on his title hopes.
"It's frustrating to have had two races without the finish the (No. 28) team deserves, but we're going all-out to win the last two races," he said.
IndyCar will conclude its 2012 season on Sept. 15 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The series champion has been decided in the finale the past six years.
"In my mind, the championship is wide open, and we're focused on one thing - winning," Hunter-Reay noted. "I'm going to push hard and treat every lap like a qualifying lap. We'll do all we can to end the weekend in victory lane."
Twenty-five teams are on the entry list for the Grand Prix of Baltimore. Bruno Junqueira will substitute for the injured Josef Newgarden in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car in this race. Newgarden, a rookie in the series this year, underwent surgery earlier this week to repair his broken left index finger that he suffered during a two-car crash at Sonoma.
Series: IZOD IndyCar. Date: Sunday, September 2. Race: Grand Prix of Baltimore. Site: Streets of Baltimore. Track: 2.4-mile, 12-turn temporary street circuit. Start Time: 2:30 p.m. (ET). Laps: 75. Miles: 200. 2011 Winner: Will Power. Television: NBC Sports Network. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.
08/30 00:29:04 ET