Pointing To California

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Two races to go before the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion is crowned. The TOYOTA Indy 400 at California Speedway is the penultimate event in the series' 16-race season and will be held on Sunday, October 3.

Competitors have been racing all year to correctly position themselves for the title, but in the end, there can only be one champion and Tony Kanaan has all but solidified that feat. The Brazilian has racked up 538 points and leads the title chase. With 50 points possible per event, and another three for leading the most laps, Kanaan can secure the 2004 crown at California Speedway with a fifth place or better showing.

Earning a top-5 finish in the TOYOTA Indy 400 shouldn't be too difficult for Kanaan. Thus far in 2004 he's garnered three wins, two poles, 13 top-5 finishes and his worst finish of the year has been eighth in the season opener. As well, in the last three events at California Speedway, he's finished fifth, fourth and third, respectively.

"This will be one more race that I'd like to win," Kanaan said. "I have good memories about Fontana and I want to win there really bad. Championship-wise, I know that I have a good chance to clinch at Fontana, but first I'd like to win the race."

The only driver that could threaten Kanaan for the title is teammate Dan Wheldon. He trails Kanaan by 75 points. Even if third in the points Buddy Rice (-95) were to win both of the next events while leading the most laps and Kanaan were to finish dead-last, he couldn't contend for the title this late in the season.

"California is going to be a good race," Wheldon said. "You expect it to be side-by-side like a superspeedway, but it doesn't always pan out that way. I think the team will have to adjust our strategy accordingly, but we've been doing pretty well on superspeedways lately.

"From a championship perspective," the driver of the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Honda said, "the team will need to get maximum points at California and also hope for a little luck. We have our work cut out for us, but we'll be giving it our best shot."

Helio Castroneves (-157) sits fourth, followed by Dario Franchitti (-172), Adrian Fernandez (-173), Sam Hornish Jr (-196), Bryan Herta (-203), Vitor Meira (-206) and Darren Manning (-227) sit fifth through 10th, respectively. Points possibilities are burning up calculators because drivers have strong possibilities of trading up or down a couple of positions in the standings.

With a strong finish at California Speedway and the season finale in Texas, two-time TOYOTA Indy 400 winner Hornish could catapult himself back into the top-5 in points.

Hornish, driver of the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Toyota, said, "I think we're only 20-points out from fifth, if we have a good run there and finish in the top-3 or a win, that's obviously a good start to getting where we need to be. The big thing for us is to go out there on the track and stay out of trouble to get to the end of it and see how we do and hopefully we'll gain a couple of points back on those guys and have a lot of momentum going into the last race of the year. We are going to put everything on the line to get back into the top-5."

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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NBCSN

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