Tony Kanaan No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet won the Verizon IndyCar Series MAVTV 500 race Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway, his first race victory since last year’s Indianapolis 500. He was ebullient. Kanaan’s win meant the series had its eleventh different winner in the 18-race schedule. This finale race had double points.
Kanaan led twice for sixty-four laps
This was Kanaan’s 17th indy car victory. He dedicated his win to his good buddy and mentor, Dario Franchitti, who retired from driving the No.10 Chevrolet after his bad racing accident last year at Houston. The popular Scot was quick to have a long private moment with Kanaan in Victory Circle.
Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet finished ninth and won his first IndyCar Drivers Championship, after finishing runner-up three times. It was the lucky thirteenth indy car victory for Roger Penske, whose last win was in 2006 with Sam Hornish, Jr. It was a long-time coming for Power, and he admitted “This was one of the hardest races ever. Oh my God, I was crying over the line. It’s unbelievable. That’s 15 years of hard work. I started taking it seriously in 2000. That’s just 15 years of hard work.” When asked, Power said “my car was fine, I just stroked it after learning of Castroneves penalty which dropped him in the running order.”
Left to Right: Tim Cindric, Will Power, and Roger Penske.
Tim Cindric, Penske President, was the Strategist for Power, and has been for the past three years. Roger Penske handled those duties for Helio Castroneves No.3 AAA Southern California Chevrolet
Last year’s IndyCar Champion and Kanaan’s teammate, Scott Dixon No.9 Chevrolet was race runner-up. The Margin of Victory was 3.6750 seconds. Ed Carpenter, the 2012 Auto Club race winner, finished third despite a speeding ticket earlier in the race. This was his last run with the No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Next year he merges his single-car team with the single car team of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and it will be called CFH Racing. Carpenter will be moving his shop into SFHR. This was the third consecutive podium finish for Carpenter at Auto Club Speedway. He led once for three laps, but a speeding ticket cost him his chance for victory.
Fourth and fifth were pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet and James Hinchcliffe No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda, who had also received a speeding ticket.
The race’s only caution was for Ryan Hunter-Reay No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, when he spun out on Lap 175 and landed in the grassy infield, where he stalled. RHR led twice for 26 laps, and was battling Kanaan for position when the solo spin occurred. Hunter-Reay was safe but the flag was already out. He had been battling Kanaan for second place behind leader Castroneves, and frustrated by not being able to pass. During that caution, Sebastien Bourdais No.11 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet had a Steward’s Review for passing the Pace Car under caution, and received a thirty-second penalty.
With Kanaan’s win, no driver captured the Triple Crown, which would only happen if a driver won all three races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana.
The race was exciting to watch – nine different leaders with 17 lead changes. Pole Sitter Montoya led five times for 85 laps, the most of any leader. Power led once for eight laps, and during that time, on Lap 189, he turned the fastest overall lap and the fastest race leader lap – 218.982 mph/32.8794 seconds.
Twenty of the 21 drivers finished the race, with ten drivers on the lead lap. Huertas was the first/only driver to retire, after 21 laps. The original IndyCar report was for Medical reasons, but it later changed to Driver Illness. He was “not feeling too well.”
Going into the race, three drivers were mathematically in contention for the Driver’s Championship. Power and his Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves No.3 AAA Southern California Chevrolet, who were 51 points apart going into the double points race, and Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda was 81 points behind Power. The win awarded 100 points for the win, plus the chance at 1-4 Bonus Points.
It didn’t take long into the race before the title contention was between the two Penske drivers, as Pagenaud was never a contender after starting an unlucky 13th, and having a disappointing race.
Pagenaud’s Crew Chief, Rob Edwards, said every innovative thing had been tried. Pagenaud scored MAVTV sponsorship for the race, running all-white livery instead of his usual orange. He finished P20, seven laps down. Pagenaud said “Tonight was not our night. It wasn’t the night we expected, that’s for sure. The car was strong Wednesday night (at the open test) until the crash that night. It wasn’t the same and we never knew why. I don’t have any answers. It wasn’t a big crash and there was no cause to change to a backup car. This is a proper team, a top team, which finished in the top five the past few years.”
Pagenaud hasn’t yet seen his teammate, Mikhail Aleshin, but he has spoken with him. Pagenaud will see the young driver Sunday morning, but wouldn’t comment on his medical condition. Aleshin is recovering in hospital from torso injuries incurred Friday night during a severe crash during final practice.
Pagenaud was coy about his plans for next year. His contract is up this year. He said he’ll get a good night’s rest and start making decisions tomorrow. It shouldn’t be long now before all is revealed.
Castroneves also had a disappointing race, after the highs of leading three times for 41 laps. He finished fourteenth after his penalty dropped him out of race/title contention on Lap 220 of the 250-lap race. He was obviously deeply disappointed, but he put on his game face and joked about his teammate/winner. “Congrats to Will for being a champion and great job. I hope the rate in his house doesn’t increase because every time I stay with him, he charges me.”
The Penalty Box was used five times, four for Pit Lane violations, and one for Passing Under Yellow. Perhaps the most heartbreaking was that levied against Castroneves for going below the Pit Lane magnetic stripe and then back on track. He said “I knew the only way for us to get in front was through the pits and my ins and outs seemed to be working very well except for my last one and I got a drive though. So my bad.”
Unofficial Points Standings: Will Power-671; Helio Castroneves-609; Scott Dixon-604; Juan Pablo Montoya-586; Simon Pagenaud-565; Ryan Hunter-Reay-563; Tony Kanaan-544; Rookie Carlos Munoz-483; Marco Andretti-463; and Sebastien Bourdais-461.
The handy-dandy IndyCar Points Possibility Chart made it easy during the race to chart the progress of the contenders. Such a chart possibly had its origins traced back to Wally ‘The Rat’ Reese back in the days of the NASCAR Truck Series.
NBCSN TV Commentator/former IndyCar racer Paul Tracy observed that Montoya’s shiny chrome helmet was so affected by track debris and dust it turned pewter color. By Lap 180 Castroneves had lost his Formula One helmet protector – came loose somewhere around the track.
Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog FlexPen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet had a moment halfway through the race – almost kissing the wall, but recovered and got back up to speed. He finished twelfth.
As soon as the race started, Carlos Munoz No.34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com Andretti Autosport Honda won the IndyCar Rookie Driver’s Championship. He had 435 points going into the race, while his only competitor, Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Motorsports Honda had 364. As Aleshin didn’t run the race, Munoz gathered even more points to win the Rookie title. The other two Rookies, Jack Hawksworth No.98 Castrol Edge BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda and Carlos Huertas No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, weren’t in contention.
Huertas had been consistently slow throughout the weekend, and was considerably off the pace. Munoz finished eighth and Hawksworth in P15.
The temperatures during the day got as high as 99 degrees F by 5pm PDT, but then cooled nicely to 93 degrees F with a 15 mph breeze at race start. The temps continued to drop, and at 7:30pm PDT it was 85 F/29C, with the track temperature charted at 99 degrees F/37 C.
It was a beautiful sunset and fitting finale to the 2014 season.
OFFICIAL MAVTV 500 RACE RESULTS
1. (7) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
2. (5) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
3. (14) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
4. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
5. (11) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running
6. (4) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running
7. (12) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
8. (19) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running
9. (21) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
10. (3) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running
11. (18) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running
12. (6) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running
13. (16) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running
14. (1) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running
15. (17) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running
16. (9) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 248, Running
17. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running
18. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 245, Running
19. (10) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 244, Running
20. (13) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 243, Running
21. (22) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 21, Driver Illness
22. (8) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 0, Did Not Start