Back at the front, Dario was bouncing back, rapidly slipping past Briscoe and Dixon and then selling Kanaan a nice dummy to gain the inside line and retake the top spot on lap 73, soon pulling out a half second lead and showing a dominance that was new to the #10 tonight. The handling seemed to be coming back to him - and the same could be said for Will Power, who was getting better and better as this green flag stint wore on and was up to fourth place: the problem for him was that with Dario closing in on the bonus points for leading the most laps, then it would not matter what Power did if Dario was leading at the chequered flag.
As the race passed the 90 lap mark, Dan Wheldon and Ryan Briscoe were the first of the leaders to come in for green flag pit stops, the cars opting to take only as much fuel as they could put in while the tyres were being changed rather than putting in a full tank's worth. Franchitti, Kanaan and Power all did the same when they came in for their stops a few laps later, and there was a brief scare out on track when a piece of refuelling hose was seen bouncing across the track apparently from EJ Viso's car: fortunately it bounced into the grass and could be safely recovered without resorting to a caution.
With the race past half distance, Franchitti led Kanaan, Dixon, Power, Briscoe and Castroneves, in a much closer and fierce battle this year than the processional affair seen at the same venue in 2009: for one thing, Power was putting in the fastest laps now, and was gaining on the lead. The championship looked et to go all the way to very last lap.
Dario had problems closer to hand, with Kanaan pressing hard to take the lead. Franchitti was holding on for dear life, the milestone being the start of lap 118 at which point he could not be overtaken for laps led: two more crucial bonus points acquired, another item off the weekend's to-do list ticked off. Now all he had to do was win this thing and he could call it a day: but things were still so tight that, should he lose the lead and drop to second, then Power's fourth place was enough to clinch the title.
Lap 134 saw the next caution: and there was shock when it became clear the cause of the yellow was none other than Will Power himself, who had got up high when coming up to lap Ryan Hunter-Reay and ended up sliding up on the marbles and into the wall at turn 4. It seemed a light contact, glancing down the wall with multiple light contacts leaving rubber all down the outside wall, and initially it seemed that Power might just have escaped complete disaster with no damage visible on the right front suspension.
That's because the damage was to the right rear instead: a rear wishbone had buckled, and it was clear when Power wasn't able to enter the pit box cleanly without almost pinning his pit crew up against the wall that the car was badly affected. Will was told to cut the engine and the car was taken behind pit wall for the mechanics to get to work, five minutes work putting him five laps down in the process. And it wasn't enough: after a couple of laps touring around under yellow, Power was back in to the pits reporting serious crabbing to the right. The car was taken back behind the wall and Power was out of the car to allow the mechanics access: this was a body blow. The type of disaster that decides championships.
Not that Dario had the title in his pocket: he was still behind Will in the points and would remain so unless and until he could get the car to the chequered flag without mishap. Dario's task was made just that little bit easier still, by Tony Kanaan having a penalty handed down for leaving his pit with the fuel hose still engaged, knocking the crew over like skittles. That got him sent to the back of the lead lap, but as this was only eighth place and with Kanaan still in such a fast car, odds were he would be back near the front well before the end of proceedings.
With the race still under yellow - a delay going back to green caused by one of the lights indicating whether the pit lane was open needing attention in the meantime - the issue of fuel strategies was looming: come cars such as Vitor Meira, Danica, Tony Kanaan and others off the lead lap came in for top-ups, looking to lean out the fuel over the remaining fifty laps. But the top five - Franchitti, Dixon, Andretti, Castroneves and Wheldon - all stayed out and planned for a late splash and dash.
Marco Andretti was on the charge at the restart, quickly pulling up alongside Franchitti and challenging for the lead on the outside. When that didn't work, he dropped to the inside - and pulled off the pass. Unsurprisingly, Dario no longer seemed to have the determination to hold on to the lead anymore: a good finish, anywhere in the top ten, would do just fine. No need to push it or take risks.
Dario had dropped back to fourth when the next caution came out on lap 166 for debris, a nice opportunity for everyone to come in to the pits for their final fuel stops, except those those had sneaked a crafty late top-up under the previous caution. Marco Andretti had burned up a lot of fuel taking the lead and needed more fuel than the likes of Franchtti and Briscoe in the pits, and paid for it in terms of position. But Dixon, Castroneves, Kanaan, Danica, Wheldon and Vitor Meira all stayed out, risky as it could prove to be, and hence formed the top six at the restart. That meant Dario was eighth, only just above the tenth position he had to maintain to clinch the title even with Will Power back in pit lane.