Not being in the championship battle didn't mean that Franchitti was any less motivated to end the season on a high with a win at Fontana, however.
"I think we stand at least as good a chance at Fontana as anyone else, we can just go for it," he insisted. "There's a lot less pressure on us in the finale than in the past three years – and to be honest, that feels horrible! I really would be happy to deal again with the pressure of going for the championship."
So who does Franchitti think will be taking over from him as champion after this weekend?
"I think Will has become a smart operator in terms of accumulating points and seeing the big picture," he said. "You don't see Will making a risky pass for fourth if he thinks he might lose a nose-wing doing it; he'll take the fifth place. And that has made him more consistent in a year when it's damn hard to be consistent.
"Ryan has been on full attack mode," he continued. "I'd say Ryan has been very aggressive this year, and there have been times when he's been quite lucky to get away with it. But then again, it's his first championship battle at this level of racing and in those circumstances, you do try and ride your luck for as long as you can."
Which approach does Franchitti think will ultimately pay off come this weekend?
"I think it's pointless to say who I think deserves to win," he insisted. "While I'm intrigued to see who my successor is as champion, I'm not so interested that I'll be asking Chip for updates on the radio during the race," he said. "I want to be standing in victory lane with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing boys."
Win or lose, at this point Hunter-Reay is just savouring the moment of being in with a shot of the title and celebrating how good 2012 has been for him and Andretti Autosport.
"I'm certainly very thankful for all of the opportunities that I've been given in my life and racing. I've had the opportunity to drive a lot of different formulas and a lot of different race cars," he said. "All things happen for a reason and if you keep working at something it's going to come good; and if you believe in it, most of all, if you believe in it, it can come good and that's how I have just gone about it.
"The period from the end of 2005 to 2007, those were the longest days of my life not having a ride, an answer, not having anything. That was a long time period. I just kept my faith at the racetrack and kept working at it," he continued. "Just like life in general, the more you put in, the more you get out of it.
"Every day I show up on the job, I have a beautiful IndyCar sitting there waiting for me, and that's my job to drive it, I mean, how cool is that. That's awesome, awesome. Couldn't think of anything better."
Just a few days will tell whether Hunter-Reay's high spirits are rewarded by becoming the first American winner of the IndyCar title since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006, or whether Will Power will finally be triumphant after so many near-misses in recent years.