FONTANA, Calif. — Over the past decade, there have been times when Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay were either out of work or deep in debt. Both considered abandoning racing.
Well, look at them now.
They go into tonight's IndyCar season finale at Auto Club Speedway battling for the championship. The winner will be a first-time champion — in any series — and officially end Dario Franchitti's three-year title run.
Hunter-Reay, who has a series-best four wins this season but trails Power by 17 points, was once stuck in the politics of U.S. open-wheel racing. There weren't enough paying rides, and open seats often go to less-talented drivers bringing sponsorship money. So Hunter-Reay was out of work all of 2006 and most of '07.
But now his three-year run at Andretti Autosport is his longest with any one team, and he agreed Friday to a multiyear contract extension, the Associated Press reported.
"I really wouldn't even think about it because I am not going to get on that mental high before I am even there, or ever think about how it would feel," he said of a title. "It's something I want worse than anything."
Nobody can relate to that like Power, who goes into the finale with the title on the line for the third consecutive year.
Power led Franchitti going into the 2010 finale but brushed the wall, finished 25th and lost the title by five points. Last year he hurt his back in the 15-car crash at Las Vegas that killed St. Petersburg resident Dan Wheldon. The finale was called off, and Franchitti had the title.
Power once begged and borrowed his way across Europe, and he thought about returning to the family canvas business at home in Australia. Now he has 14 wins during his three full seasons with Penske Racing,
"It's going to be what it's going to be, and we just focus on what we can control and however it plays out is what happens," he said. "We're going to be the champion or we're not."