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Will Power continues title chase at Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

Reporting from Sonoma, Calif. — The Izod IndyCar Series arrives in California wine country this weekend for its last road-course race of the season, which might be Will Power’s best chance to extend his lead in the championship standings.

Power has a series-high four wins this season that all came on twisty road or street courses, and the Team Penske driver is looking for another on Sunday in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.

The Australian has a 41-point lead over defending Sonoma winner and reigning series champion Dario Franchitti, who has two wins this season. Power also has an 82-point lead over third-place Scott Dixon, Franchitti’s teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who won at Sonoma in 2007.

“We did great last year, but each race you go to, no matter what you did the race before or the race last year, you’ve got to start from zero again and get the car working right, and everybody’s got to go out and earn it again,” Franchitti said.

Several other drivers are hoping for a good finish at Sonoma to bolster their seasons, including Power’s teammate Helio Castroneves, who’s fifth in points and won at Infineon in 2008; Tony Kanaan, the 2005 winner at Infineon; and Kanaan’s teammate Danica Patrick, who’s struggled this season and sits 11th in the series standings.

“It’s always great to go back to a track where you’ve won before,” Kanaan said. “But 2005 seems like a long time ago, so we need to get another win there to freshen up the memories.”

After Sonoma, the series has four races remaining, all on oval tracks: Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.; Kentucky Speedway near Cincinnati; Twin Ring Motegi in Japan; and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida on Oct. 2.

Power’s title chase is all the more impressive because a year ago he suffered a broken back in a crash during practice at Infineon Raceway. But after his rehabilitation, Power won the first two races this year on street courses in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I really want to win at Infineon after what happened last year,” Power said. Following the accident, “I did wonder if I was going to be as fast as I was. Once I got back into the car at the first test, I knew it was going to be OK.”

But he’ll have Franchitti, Dixon and others breathing down his neck at Infineon, where the drivers will practice Friday and then qualify Saturday for the pole position and to set the rest of the starting lineup.

The versatile Franchitti won this year’s Indianapolis 500 on the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, and he won the series’ most recent race at the Mid-Ohio road course in Lexington, Ohio.

Another Penske driver, Ryan Briscoe, has finished second at Sonoma for the last two years. Briscoe, fourth in the standings and 109 points behind Power, has one win this year, at Texas Motor Speedway.

james.peltz@latimes.com


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