Kanaan sees IndyCar title chase as 2-car race Print
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Friday, 24 June 2011 13:18
NASCAR Headline News

 NEWTON, Iowa (AP) - Though many IndyCar drivers would probably pay lip service to their chances of catching co-leaders Will Power and Dario Franchitti for the IndyCar points title, 2004 series champion Tony Kanaan didn't shy away from the obvious.
Every other car is likely fighting for third.
``This championship is pretty well set between two guys. I don't see anybody else winning, unfortunately. I know that's not what we want, that's not the mentality to have, but you've got to be realistic. Right now with the points lead that they have, I think they'll be untouchable,'' Kanaan said Thursday. ``It's up to us to make it better next year, don't let it happen.''
Kanaan would be thrilled to finish third in the points given how his year began.
The popular Brazilian was released from his contract with Andretti Autosport in the offseason after his sponsorship with 7-Eleven dried up. He didn't sign with KV Racing Technology-Lotus until a week before the season started.
Kanaan returns to Iowa, where a year ago he picked up his last win, in sixth place but just 27 points back of Oriol Servia for third.
Kanaan qualified third for Saturday's race, behind teammate Takuma Sato and former teammate Danica Patrick.
``I didn't know what to expect when we signed, and the team didn't either. We gather seven or eight guys at the last minute putting a car together that was sitting in the shop ready to go, and they said 'We'll take whatever comes to us.' It's so been so far, so good,'' Kanaan said.
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ENGINEERING COMFORT: Danica Patrick credits Tino Belli, her new engineer, for giving her a car that's focused more on comfort than speed.
Patrick's comfort led to some serious speed during Friday's qualifying session at Iowa Speedway.
Patrick's season-best qualifying run of second was a positive sign after she fought through the bumps on the first and second turns last year and finished 10th - her third straight top-10 finish in Iowa without cracking the top five.
Having a car Patrick can put exactly where it needs to be on the track could prove to be the difference for her at Iowa, and she said felt much more at ease Friday on the .875-mile oval than she did a year ago.
``Last year in practice I don't know if I went flat out until qualifying, and that took some ovaries to do because I wasn't really excited to do it,'' Patrick said. ``In practice (Friday) I was flat by the second or third lap and I was flat the whole time.''
Patrick has started all eight events on the open-wheel circuit in 2011, and the only laps she's led were the 10 she ran at the Indianapolis 500. But Patrick maneuvered through traffic to finish eighth and fifth in her last two races; at Texas and Milwaukee last Sunday. She moved up five spots in the points chase to 10th for this week's race, the biggest jump of any driver in IndyCar.
``I think I've got a much better car beneath me and it just comes from experience and trial and error,'' Patrick said.
Patrick is now in her second season splitting time between NASCAR Nationwide and IndyCar races. But she brushed off questions about whether this weekend's race will be her last open-wheel event at Iowa.
The track will host its second Nationwide race in August. Patrick missed the NASCAR race in May and she won't run here in August because of conflicts with her IndyCar schedule.
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FIRST PLACE FOR PENSKE? For all the success Team Penske has had in the IndyCar series over the years, the one place it has yet to tame is Iowa.
A Penske driver has never taken home the replica ethanol fuel pump given to the winner at Iowa Speedway. Helio Castroneves has come the closest, winning the pole in 2009 and finishing second last year, while Ryan Briscoe has three straight top-10s.
Will Power won the pole in 2010, his first on an oval, and led for 32 laps before finishing fifth.
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SPARKPLUGS: Will Power visited Principal Park in Des Moines, home of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, for a promotional tour Wednesday night and came inches from catching a foul ball. Power, an Australian who'd never seen a baseball game before, thought about trying to catch the ball before remembering how important his hands are to his day job. ... Saturday race's will be the first IndyCar night event at Iowa. The first four races were run Sunday afternoons. ... With a win Saturday night, both Castroneves and Scott Dixon would tie Rodger Ward for 12th on the career wins list with 26.
 

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