Scott Dixon insists that holding a 78-point championship lead heading into the third-last race of the season isn't enough to win the IndyCar title, although he could do just that this weekend at Infineon Raceway.
Speaking at the unveiling of special 'whitewall' Firestone tyres designed to show those drivers still in the running for the title, the Kiwi admitted that, while it would be nice to wrap the championship up in California, he was mentally prepared for the likes of Helio Castroneves drag it out as long as possible.
"We'd like to lock up the championship, but you can see the competition is going to make it tough," he claimed, "Helio is very strong and so are TK and my team-mate [Dan Wheldon] as well. But we've had a pretty good streak recently and, if we can keep it up and gain points on Helio, then that's the way we'd like to do it."
Faced with the road and street courses at Infineon and Belle Isle before the season finale on the Chicagoland oval, Dixon refuses to count his chickens, especially as he hasn't shown his best form away from the banked tracks.
"We've had a bit of rough year on road courses compared to the past, especially at St Pete and Watkins [Glen], but at Edmonton we showed that the team is very strong," he mused, "We have the speed, but it seems we struggle a bit more in qualifying. We just can't seem to get the speed the others have for one or two laps. For the race, though, we're fairly confident."
Castroneves, meanwhile, also refuses to admit that the title race is over, even though he is facing a near insurmountable task to overhaul Dixon in three races.
"I have to believe I can catch Scott - absolutely, otherwise I wouldn't be here," the Brazilian maintained, "There are still a lot of points in the game. We know what we need to do, and I think they have more to lose than us. We're going to continue trying like we have been doing the last two races. We're going to be fighting, even if there's just one point, and even if it looks impossible, we're going to have the faith we can get it."
Unlike Dixon, Castroneves is looking forward to the next couple of rounds, after Penske showed solid form at the earlier road and street courses on the schedule.
"The good news is that I am very comfortable with the road courses," he pointed out, "The bad news is that he is also very comfortable with the road courses. It's going to be neck-in-neck. In his situation, he doesn't have to do much. I think just following can be the best thing that he can do because, if he makes a mistake, it would cost more than he would gain. I'm not counting on him making a mistake, and I'm not wishing him a mistake. All I can do is just focus on the work ahead of us, and that's what we're going to do."