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34 cars set to race at Vegas

A record field of 34 cars is set to take the green flag at the IZOD IndyCar World Championship season finale at Las Vegas next weekend.
The final race of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season will see 34 cars take to the track at Las Vegas - a record number of entries.

All eyes will be on the championship showdown between Dario Franchitti and Will Power. Power went into the last race at Kentucky in the lead in the points, but a pit lane accident saw his race compromised and he will now have to overcome an 18pt deficit to the Scot at Vegas if he is to claim his first championship.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon will be starting from the back of the grid and aiming to work his way up to the front by the end of the race. If he can achieve that and win the race, he will clinch a $5m prize that will be shared with a fan selected at random from a sweepstake.

One other battle to be decided is that of the Rookie of the Year. James Hinchcliffe inched ahead of Indy 500 runner-up JR Hildebrand by 6pts after Kentucky.

Vegas will be the final outing for the Dallara chassis that been in use in IRL and IndyCar for the last eight years, before the new 2012 IndyCar Safety Cell is rolled out for the start of next year - which explains why so many teams and drivers are entered for one last hurrah on the track, as there is no longer any concern about protecting cars from crashes for future usage.

The race will also be the last in IndyCar for Andretti Autosport's Danica Patrick in the series before her full-time switch to NASCAR Nationwide Series racing in 2012.

Paul Tracy will return to the Dragon Racing car in his seventh appearance of the season, six for Dragon as well as the Indianapolis 500 for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. DRR are adding Davey Hamilton to their line-up for the Vegas weekend, with Townsend Bell continuing to run in the #22 that would normally be driven by the currently-injured Justin Wilson.

Tomas Scheckter is also back for another appearance, joining the Sarah Fisher Racing team who are on a high after claiming their first IndyCar Series victory in Kentucky with Ed Carpenter. Even before the breakthrough win, Scheckter had commented that "If you see the ways these cars have been running on the ovals ... I think we have a very good chance at Vegas."

Indy 500 polesitter Alex Tagliani returns after sitting out Kentucky to allow Dan Wheldon to have a warm-up outing in his #77 car; Wheldon gets to keep that car for Vegas, with Alex Tagliani switched to the #98 William Rast/Bowers & Wilkins car for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian/Sam Schmidt Motorsports - the car number that Wheldon took to the win at Indianapolis.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay pose with an IndyCar in front of the famous welcome sign at the city limits of Las Vegas. [Picture Credit: IndyCar Media]
Will Power Texas
James Davison
Will Power Indy 500 practice
Sebastian Saavedra headshot
JR Hildebrand, IndyCar, Ed Carpenter Racing
James Hinchcliffe, Long Beach, IndyCar
Will Power - Team Penske
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Will Power - Penske  [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
James Hinchcliffe - Schmidt Peterson Motorsports   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
James Hinchcliffe - Schmidt Peterson [credit: Chris Owens]
Sebastian Bourdais (KVSH Racing) celebrates in Detroit   [image creid: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Sebastian Bourdais - KVSH Racing   [image credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]

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