Morning Newsletter

Oval arguments

When the IndyCar Series season started, Oriol Servia had one goal in mind: to win a race.

That hasn't happened yet for the Newman/Haas driver, who had a victory taken away in August at New Hampshire by a controversial decision. But as the season winds down, Servia has his sights on another prize — the A.J. Foyt Oval Trophy.

Four drivers still have a shot at the hardware, which made its debut last year along with the Mario Andretti Road Trophy. Scott Dixon leads the oval standings with 181 points, 17 more than Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti, while overall series leader Will Power of Team Penske is 36 points behind and Servia is 37 back.

The A.J. Foyt Oval Trophy goes to the driver who is tops on the oval tracks the IndyCar Series runs before the season finale at Las Vegas: Indianapolis, Texas, Milwaukee, Iowa, New Hampshire and Kentucky. It will be awarded after Sunday's race at Kentucky, where 53 points are up for grabs.

"It would be amazing, honestly, being that I didn't race last year and the team didn't have their best season," Servia said. "To come back this strong — we've been actually there the whole season — there's two Ganassis and one Penske ahead of us, and we still have a chance. It would be amazing."

Three-time IndyCar champ Franchitti won the first Foyt trophy last year, and though he's focused on the "big picture," capturing it again would mean he's on the right track. He trails Power in the overall standings by just 11 points.

"That was great to win it (in 2010)," Franchitti said. "I like the fact that A.J.'s name is on the trophy and Mario's is on the road course trophy. It's a nice recognition of achievement, but for me right now I'm very much focused on the championship — the bigger prize.

"In order to win the championship, I'm going to have to have a pretty good performance in the next couple of races, which will hopefully give us the Foyt trophy."

Only Kentucky and Las Vegas on Oct. 16 remain before the overall champion is crowned. Both tracks have 1.5-mile ovals, which could work against Servia.

"We've been very, very strong on the short ovals," the Spaniard said, "but the mile-and-a-halves have been a little bit of a weak point this season — but we do have hope."

Servia believed he had that oh-so-important victory at New Hampshire, a race that was halted by weather 10 laps before the scheduled finish. Servia's team maintained there was a gap of at least 3 seconds between the time the green flag waved and the yellow came out for Danica Patrick's spin.

Patrick slid sideways, causing a big pileup behind the leaders, the race was red-flagged and IndyCar Series director of competition and operations Brian Barnhart then decided to revert to the previous starting order. That gave Ryan Hunter-Reay the win and left Servia in second despite scoring monitors that showed he had passed Hunter-Reay for the lead. The team paid $2,500 to present evidence at a hearing that Servia should be declared the winner. The protest was denied.

Servia and his Newman/Haas team already have started plotting for Kentucky.

"We may not be at our best place, but what we have in our advantage is I have a little bit of a cushion on the points where things have to really go bad to lose the fourth spot in the championship," Servia said. "So that will allow me to be a little more risky, let's say, driving but also on the strategy side.

"For sure, Franchitti and Power, they have to be eyeing each other," Servia added. "They have the championship on the line. Every point can make a difference. It's not so big for me, so I may be in a good position to maybe surprise.

"It would be a huge honor to a little Spaniard like me. We're going to do our best. We have maybe a little more freedom than the guys up front to try to be creative. We hope we have a chance."

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