SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — His dominating run through the IndyCar Series road and street courses at an end, Will Power heads into the final four races with a comfortable points lead over defending champion Dario Franchitti.

He’s far from at ease, though. These final four races are on ovals and while Power has made progress going in circles, he’s not on the same level as Franchitti, arguably the best all-around driver on the circuit.

So as the IndyCar Series heads into its final stretch, starting this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Power can’t help but peek in his rearview mirror.

“I don’t think this championship is almost mine,” Power said after winning at Sonoma on Sunday. “There’s a lot of racing to go. Four races, a lot can happen. Really, whatever the buffer is, you can lose a lot of that in just one race. We’re going to work really hard. I’m going to race those ovals like I want to win the championship.”

It’s been an impressive run toward the title so far.

Power won the season-opener in Brazil to take the points lead and never relinquished it, thanks to a win at St. Petersburg the following week and again at Watkins Glen and Toronto.

The Aussie already had the inaugural IndyCar Series road course championship locked up before Sonoma. A year after having to be airlifted from the course with a broken back, he made it look easy in the hills of California’s wine country by overcoming some early week jitters, securing his series-record eighth pole of 2010 with late bursts of speed in the final two qualifying sessions and leading all but two laps of Sunday’s race.

The win, combined with Franchitti’s third-place finish, pushed Power’s lead to 59 points over the Scotsman.

Now it’s time to find out if Power’s power is limited to the road.

All of his series-leading wins this season came on road and street courses. The final four races — Kentucky, Japan and Homestead after Chicago — are all on 1.5-mile ovals.

Three years removed from Champ Car, Power is making gradual progress on ovals. Prior to this season, his best finish on an oval was fifth at Chicago in 2008, but this year he earned the pole at Iowa, where he finished fifth, and was eighth at the Indianapolis 500.

Still, Power has never won going in circles and he finished the first portion of the oval schedule eighth in the standings, 49 points behind Franchitti’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon.

The two Ganassi drivers have dominated the ovals the past few years. Both are two-time series champions, Indy 500 champs — Franchitti won his second this year — and have combined to win eight oval races since 2008.

And they know how to run well at the final four tracks. Both drivers have won at Homestead. Dixon, 95 points behind Power in the overall standings, has a victory at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and Franchitti has won in Chicago, where Dixon has three second-place finishes. Neither has won at Kentucky, but Ganassi Racing has.

“It’s a fairly large deficit, but it’s four tracks we’ve run well on,” Franchitti said. “I don’t underestimate the challenge at all. Will is going to be quite strong. People are writing him off because of his lack of experience on ovals, but he’ll be right up there. We have to do a better job and we’ll be pushing 100 percent.”

Power’s goal is to win an oval race and the overall title. He doesn’t have to win an oval race to get the title, though.

All Power has to do is stay away from catastrophe, run near the top and hope neither Franchitti nor Dixon strings together two or three wins in the final four races.

He’s done it all season on the road courses. Now it’s time to show he can do it on the ovals.

“We’ve been thinking about it (the ovals) for weeks — it’s going to be fun,” said Clive Howell, Power’s strategist. “I think he’s going to be good. He’s going to shake that monkey and we’ll be fine.”


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