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Power seeks to continue Sonoma dominance

The SportsXchange

SONOMA, Calif. - Welcome home, Will Power.

Actually, Sonoma Raceway, a picturesque road course in the hills north of San Francisco, is far removed from Power's native home in Toowoomba, Australia, or his current home near the NASCAR teams in North Carolina.

But it feels like home professionally for the IndyCar Series driver, especially as he has dominated at the track in recent years.

Power, who has won twice at this circuit in the past three years and finished a controversial second last year, has led more than 85 percent of the laps in those races (201 of 235). He has been the fastest qualifier in each of those races and should be working on a four-peat in the race had Ryan Briscoe not slipped in front of him during the final caution last year.

Actually, the lead change wasn't so much Briscoe's doing as what the drivers in front of Power weren't doing. The caution flag was waving, and those drivers weren't in a big hurry to get back around the track. Their slowness kept Power from getting back in front of Briscoe, who had pitted.

Given that the track doesn't have a lot of passing places for IndyCar drivers, Briscoe held the lead the rest of the way for his only victory of the season.

That opportunity to win was one of the few Power has had lately, and it's noteworthy. He takes a 25-race drought into Sunday's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

That's why he's excited to be back "home."

"Definitely, especially with the year we've had, I can't wait," he said. "It's a track I've had a lot of success on. Although the competition has definitely heated up this year, we still expect to be running right at the front."

Nine drivers have won IndyCar races this season, two off the all-time record. Power easily could be the 10th, or it could be Dario Franchitti, who hasn't won a race since the 2012 Indianapolis 500. Franchitti's losing streak is 24 races.

Power likes his chances of winning sometime this season, if not at Sonoma then maybe next week's street race in Baltimore, either of the two races around Houston's Reliant Stadium (Oct. 5-6) or the season-ending oval-track race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (Oct. 19).

"I think the next two, for sure, are good tracks for me," Power said. "Always quick there.

"Then you've got Houston, as well, and even Fontana. Obviously, I haven't won on an oval for a long time (Texas 2011 was his only such win). Sonoma is definitely a good chance for us. But you know, there have been nine different winners this year, so it's really hard to predict how fast you're going to be, and you know, who is going to be in the front and who you're going to be challenging."

Franchitti and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon were 1-2 in Wednesday's open test at this track. Power and his Team Penske teammate, series points leader Helio Castroneves, joined reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport in the top five of the five-hour session.

Power's confidence comes from a recent test at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway.

"We found something which very much suited me," he said. "So we did get to work there, so I just wonder if it's going to be possible on these lower-grip circuits like Sonoma and Baltimore.

"We saw how dominant Ganassi's (cars) were at Toronto (in July) and they were able to get their cars to work very well. I also think Honda has made a bit of a gain, definitely, but then Chevy has also made a gain recently, too."

Roger Penske's team uses Chevrolets, Chip Ganassi's team uses Hondas. Ganassi has seen Scott Dixon win three races this season, Charlie Kimball one, all in the past four races.
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