RACE RECAP

Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan

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 dixty-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 with Driver Trophy

Will Power. Photo courtesy Chevrolet.

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.”

Tim Cindric

Will Power

Roger Penske

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.

Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan & Ed Carpenter

Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan & Ed Carpenter. Photo Courtesy Chevrolet

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.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

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 a 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.

Auto Club Sunset

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

POWERFUL WINNING WAYS FOR WILL & KANAAN

Will Power

Will Power

Tony Kanaan No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet won his first IndyCar race this season Saturday night, making him the eleventh different victor. Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet won the Drivers Championship at the Verizon IndyCar MAVTV 500 race Saturday night on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway. Power, nursing an ill-handling car, dropped back from fourth, to finished ninth. He had started P20, and steadily charged up the pack, and led for a few laps.

This is the first Title for Power, who was runner-up three times.

Power said “It just went on and on and on. I can’t believe it. I’m mentally exhausted now, and my hands are numb from holding onto the steering wheel so tight. I can’t believe I won it.”

For Team Penske owner, Roger Penske, it was win-win no matter who won the race. Two of his drivers, Power and Helio Castroneves No.3 AAA Southern California Chevrolet, finished 1-2 in the championship – Penske’s first championship since 2006; and the third driver – Juan Pablo Montoya No2 Hitachi Chevrolet had the pole position, led the most laps, and finished fourth in the race.

Castroneves was a title/race contender until he fell back to P 14 after receiving a drive-through penalty on Lap 221 driving down onto the apron and then crossing back onto the racetrack. He went a lap down. That’s the pits.

Castroneves said “I was pushing it extremely hard. My ins and outs seemed to be working out, until the last one.” It’s another second – his fourth runner-up position.

Montoya said “Today we had a car to win. It’s great for Team Penske and my being with the team, I could help them.”

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Power’s SuperFan, Brian McEnnerney, was in the pit for the race – he’s Power’s good luck charm. Power flew the entire family down to Fontana for the race. Young McEnnerney has been Power’s Number One Fan for several years.

Power never asked for an update during the race. He had previously said “As long as I finish sixth or better, I’m good.”

Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan

Kanaan said “Not bad for an old man. Finally. If you win the last race, you get to brag about it for seven months. Long time coming. I finally get my picture on the shop wall.”

Penske Performance Inc President, Tim Cindric, called the race for Power, while team owner Roger Penske called Castroneves’ race.

Tim Cindric

Tim Cindric

Tim Cindric

Mark Miles, CEO Hulman Company, said this season was “compelling.”

One crowd count estimate by a local journalist was 22,000.

LEARNING FROM ACCIDENTS

Derrick Walke

Derrick Walke

Derrick Walker, IndyCar President of Competition and Operations, puts it this way. We learn from accidents and move on to ways to make racing safer.

Friday night during Final Practice at Auto Club Speedway, Verizon IndyCar driver, Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda, had a horrific accident. He spun out and was unavoidably hit by Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog FlexPen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Aleshin then spun up, down and around, and hit the safety fence. Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda got caught out in the debris. Kimball and Andretti were checked and cleared to drive. Aleshin was air-lifted to nearby Loma Linda University Medical Center, where, as per Dr. Terry Trammell, IndyCar Consultant, Aleshin is now in stable condition after a procedure for a chest injury.

While the young Russian Rookie recuperates and recovers from his torso injuries, the IndyCar Safety Committee and IndyCar Vice President, Technology, Will Phillips, will be working with all the data recovered from the car remains. Among the members of the IndyCar Safety Committee are two drivers – Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda. Others are Dr. Trammell; IndyCar Director, Engineering/Safety, Jeff Horton; and IndyCar Vice President of Competition, Brian Barnhart.

The IndyCar folks very carefully and laboriously sift through all pieces and parts, download data, take multitudes of photographs and generally do an accident reconstruction. All of this is done before the car can be released back to the race team.

Once back in IndyCar’s Indianapolis headquarters, all the involved IndyCar folk will carefully analyze all the details, and learn from the process, which can take several weeks.

Included in the analyzed data will be the G-forces, which can be detailed by the IndyCar Earpiece Sensor System, aka accelerometers. These three sensors are integrated into the earpieces all IndyCar drivers are required to wear. They sense and measure vertical, lateral and longitudinal G-forces sustained by the driver at the moment of impact. These devices have been mandatory for IndyCar drivers since 2003, and Indy Lights drivers since 2004. Since 2007, the accelerometers have been manufactured in-house by IndyCar.

The load failure of the chassis is determined by a push test, exerting force on the car until something happens. This leads to the number of anticipated G forces which can be tolerated before failure. In Aleshin’s accident, the load failure was higher than expected, based on the initial data collected before the event. That was a good thing.

All of this leads to new innovations which in turn lead to greater driver safety.

ACCIDENT UPDATE

The good news about Verizon IndyCar driver, Mikhail Aleshin, is that he survived Friday’s night accident in Final Practice at Auto Club speedway before, considering how horrific it looked. The young Russian driver destroyed his No.7 SMP Racing Honda. He spun out down low, perhaps to avoid Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet, who was pitting. Aleshin spun up the track where he was unavoidably collected by Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog FlexPen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Kimball was checked at the Infield Care Center post-accident, and cleared to drive.

Aleshin was air-lifted to Loma Linda Medical Center after the accident, where he was admitted, listed in serious but stable condition. INDYCAR Medical Consultant, Dr. Terry Trammell, updated Aleshin’s medical condition. Aleshin was diagnosed with fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle, a concussion and chest injuries. He was admitted to the hospital and listed in serious but stable condition.

Sunday afternoon Pastor Bob Hills, Director of IndyCar Ministry, said in Chapel that Aleshin had undergone surgery for shoulder and chest injuries. Aleshin had planned to return to Russia Friday, but his hospital stay will preclude that trip for now.

NOTE: After this column was written and about to be sent, another update came from Dr. Trammell, advised that Aleshin’s condition was upgraded to stable, following a procedure for a chest injury. Aleshin will remain hospitalized while he recovers from the procedure.

Aleshin’s car was a bucket of bolts, a scrap heap. Both his front wheels came off and through the fence. The tub was speared by Kimball.

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Kimball’s car sustained an impact higher than the failure load, but the front was messed up. The Ganassi crew went to work after the accident to prepare the T or backup car for Kimball. The car drove in the Saturday afternoon Systems Check, which is just what it sounds for each team who can send out a car. According to the Scrutineers, Kimball’s car underwent a safety check before the track Systems Check. Afterwards, Kimball’s car underwent the full tech inspection. All the teams can exercise a voluntary option to bring their cars to Tech Inspection, but it is up to the teams to ensure the car is legal.

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Marco Andretti's Car

Simon Pagenaud's Car

Other teams also brought cars through Tech, including pole sitter Helio Castroneves No.3 AAA Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet, Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda, and Aleshin’s teammate, Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda. Pagenaud has a mathematical chance to win the title championship Saturday evening, but it would mean a lot of things would have to occur to the top two contenders – points leader Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and Castroneves.

Andretti wasn’t directly involved in the Friday night accident, but he did run into a lot of debris, causing damage. No other drivers seem to have been involved in the accident.

Auto Club Speedway replaced one 25 foot wide safety fence panel. Everything else was intact. The fencing is standard for all ISC (International Speedway Corporation) race tracks. Everything needed for the repair was already on site. Eighteen track Operations Crew members worked for six hours repairing the fence. And is the case with all such repairs, IndyCar was “thoroughly engaged in the process.”

The Official Starting Line Up for the MAVTV 500 race was released, and it shows that Kimball and Andretti retained their original starting positions – P6 for Kimball, who went to a backup car, and P18 for Andretti, who repaired his damaged car. Aleshin’s SMP team will not run another driver in its backup (Sonoma Raceway) car. Ryan Hunter-Reay No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who qualified P9, will move into P8, Aleshin’s qualifying position. This will mean 21 drivers, seven rows of three for the Starting Grid.

Posting of this column was delayed awaiting clarification of the Starting Line Up procedures.

ACCIDENT IN NIGHT PRACTICE

The night/final practice for the MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway was cut short after a horrific accident involving several drivers.

Mikhail Aleshin

Mikhail Aleshin

Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda spun out down low in Turn Four, spun up high to the safety fence and was unavoidably hit by Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog Flex Pen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Aleshin went up into the safety fence, tearing it apart, up in the air and landed down in Pit Lane. A wheel and wheel tether landed over the wall. Taking great care, Aleshin was extracted from the car, put on a stretcher and transported.

Kimball walked away, as did Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda. Several other cars were caught in the melee, including KVSH Chevrolet teammates, Sebastien Bourdais No.11 and Sebastian Saavedra No.17, and Jack Hawksworth No.98 Castrol Edge BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda. All the other drivers are allright.

An update from the IndyCar Medical Director, Michael Olinger, said that Aleshin was conscious and being air lifted to Loma Linda Medical Center, complaining of injuries to right shoulder and right foot.

This was the first incident of the weekend.

Kimball, who was checked in the infield care center and cleared to race, was interviewed afterwards, in the garage, by Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times, while Kimball watched his team repairing his car. Kimball told Peltz “The 7 car spun from the bottom and I really had nowhere to go.”

The safety fence panel will require replacing.

The session, scheduled for half an hour was ended – after 19 minutes.

At the end, Ryan Briscoe No.8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was fastest, running 218.660 mph. He was followed by Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Kimball was running fourth when he was hit. James Hinchcliffe No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda was fifth.

Charlie Kimball

Sebastien Bourdais

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Left to Right: Charlie Kimball, Sebastien Bourdais & James Hinchcliffe.

Aleshin was running fourteenth when the accident occurred.

Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet had a less than stellar evening, finishing in P20

Power is still the points leader. He was the first out of the chute when the session opened. The Aussie went out and came back, twice in quick succession, for tire changes, and then a third time for data download/dump.

Will Power awaiting start

Will Power tire change

Will Power Data Download

PENSKE 1-2

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves No.3 Southern California AAA Team Penske Chevrolet took the Verizon IndyCar Series Verizon P1 pole position at Auto Club Speedway Friday afternoon in the blistering 97 degrees F sun, while the track was 147 degrees F.. His pole lap was 218.540 mph/355.30292 kph/105.2247 seconds, set on the last qualifying run. The ebullient Brazilian was so happy he jumped up and down, while the Team Penske crew cheered in the pit lane.

This was Castroneves’ third Auto Club pole, his 26th on an oval, and his third pole this season. His sum total is now 41 poles, breaking the tie with Rick Mears, Penske driver with four championships and now Team consultant. Castroneves is now fourth on the all-time pole list.

Helio Castroneves & Mikaella

Helio Castroneves & Mikaella

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Up to the point Castroneves took the pole, his teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya No.2, who had gone out second, held the pole position – and when any close contender ended up slower than JPM, the guys cheered. Montoya stood on the pit box, glued to the T&S monitor. He will start second.

Completing the front row will be Josef Newgarden No.67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

Will Power

Will Power

Last year’s pole sitter/winner, Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet qualified a disappointing P21 out of 22 drivers. He still holds the qualifying record for an average of two laps – 220.775 mph/1:05.2247, set last year. Power won last year’s race from the pole

Power said “”For starting positions we would have liked the Verizon Chevy to start from the front, but starting in both the front or very back can help keep you out of trouble. From the back you learn what your car is like in traffic and we will have 3 hours to do it. It will be a long race. We have another practice tonight to work on things, as the Verizon Chevy was too lose. The start is to be there at the end and it’s far from over. The Verizon Chevy boys are going to do everything possible to make it happen.”

Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda has an outside chance at the title championship this weekend, what with double points and all. He qualified fourteenth.

Castroneves was ever so jubilant. He brought his daughter, Mikaella, with him to his pole conference. He said “I really have to thank my guys and Will (Power) and Juan Pablo (Montoya). Going out last (in qualifying) really helped because I was able to get my teammates’ feedback and we made some changes that really helped us get the pole. Now, we need to keep going. We are starting up front but it is a long race and we know what we need to do to make it happen. This is the first step. Now we need to make sure we end up where we start tomorrow night. I am concentrating on my own race, and not being concerned by (my teammate and title contender) Power.”

Montoya said “We really had it set up for race trim, so I wasn’t expecting it to be that good for qualifying. But it was. It was really quick, especially for the hot conditions that we had to qualify in. We ran the same time that we ran this morning and it was much hotter. I’ll be honest I didn’t think that time would hold up that well. Congrats to Helio (Castroneves) on the Verizon P1 Pole Award. It’s going to be an interesting race tomorrow night.”

Josef Newgarden

Newgarden, the highest qualifying Honda for the last four races, still wasn’t completely happy. “We’re always right there but can’t get the top spot. Today was the perfect day to do it. No one knows what line to use. Guys going high, low, middle throughout their run. If the game plan was right, you could hoodwink people. Our first lap could have been way quicker with a better line choice in T1 and T2. Judging off everyone’s performance, I think we could have been pole today.”

Qualifying was single file, using the average of two green flag laps. The Qualifying Order was done by blind draw. After Qualifying the temperature rose to 99 degrees.

Helio Castroneves' Car

Will Power's Car

Josef Newgarden's car

There are 11 IndyCar Observers stationed around the two-mile speedway, spotting for Race Control this weekend at the Speedway. This is the most ever for this event, and it’s working out quite well.

Next up is Night/final practice. The reason the time was pushed back to 7:15pm PDT was so that the drivers could check how the evening light would be. Last year the race was in October, and this year it’s in August, which means the sunset time frames are different.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

The Verizon IndyCar Series cars completed their first practice session at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana CA, with the usual suspects leading the charts on the D-shaped oval.

Points Leader Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and his closest contender – and teammate, Helio Castroneves No.3 Southern California AAA Chevrolet were 1-2. Power’s time of 32.5220/221.389 mph was faster than his two-lap qualifying record set last year of 220.775 mph, and also faster than the top test time Wednesday, set by Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – 32.8075/219.462 mph. Power is last year’s winner.

Power and Castroneves turned the fewest laps – nine each.

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Dixon was fourth fastest behind Ed Carpenter No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Carpenter won the IndyCar race Auto Club Speedway in 2012, and finished second last year.

This is Carpenter’s last race as the single-car owner of Ed Carpenter Racing. Next year he’s merging with another single-car team, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and the team will be known as CFH Racing. Current SFH Racing driver, Josef Newgarden No.67 Honda, has just resigned as driver for the new team. Still no word on any other details regarding engine supplier, any other drivers, staffing, etc.

Ed Carpenter Racing logo

Target Chip Ganassi cars

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing logo

Fifth was Tony Kanaan No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The top six and eight of the top ten cars were Chevrolet, which has already clinched the IndyCar Manufacturers Championship.

The top Rookie was Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda – the top Honda of the morning. Two of the four Rookies – Carlos Huertas No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Jack Hawksworth No.98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda turned the most laps. Huertas ran 49 laps for P22 while Hawksworth ran 45 laps for P20.

The other Rookie, Carlos Munoz No.34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com Andretti Autosport Honda was fourteenth, with 19 laps. Earlier in the day he was chatting up NBCSN journalist, Tony DiZinno, who is celebrating his birthday today. Happy Birthday Tony!

Carlos Munoz & Tony DiZinno

Carlos Munoz & Tony DiZinno

There was no drama during the 75-minute session. The temperature was the high eighties, with no breeze and low humidity. The air was not smoggy and there was a clear view of the nearby mountains. An eleven plus minutes caution for routine track inspection interrupted the practice. Debris which might harm tires is always a concern, and was so Wednesday for the test on the two-mile speedway.

Next up with IndyCar qualifying at 2:15pm PDT.

RELAXED FRIDAY

MAVTV 500 American Real 500 logo

Friday is Day One of the two-day Verizon IndyCar Series season’s finale MAVTV 500 race at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California, where the fast track times will be as hot as the ambient temperature which is already almost 80 degrees in mid-morning.

The overall schedule is very light – IndyCars on track Friday for a mid-morning 75-minute practice session, early afternoon qualifying and one late afternoon half-hour final practice. The last practice was just changed from running 6-6:45pm PDT, to a later time of 7:15-7:45pm PDT.

Afterwards a season-ending informal casual party will be held for participants, with live entertainment including musicial and comedic interludes from Drivers James Hinchcliffe No.28 United Fiber and Data Andretti Autosport Honda and Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda, among others.

Sunday’s schedule is even lighter – Gates open at noon, IndyCar autograph session, live-streamed Driver’s Meeting, and the live TV broadcast of the 250-lap race beginning at 7:20 pm PDT. NBC Sports Network is airing the race.

The only other track activity is the Historic indycars, all on display in one of the garages.

All of the 22 IndyCar drivers tested Wednesday at the Speedway in the last Open test of the season. Last week’s Sonoma Raceway IndyCar winner, Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet topped the charts in each of the two sessions, and overall, running a total of 94 laps, with a best lap of 00:32.8075/219.462 mph. All drivers were fastest in the second session.

Mikhail Aleshin

Mikhail Aleshin

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud

The top Rookie was Mikhail Aleshin, tenth overall. Sebastien Bourdais No.11 Hydoxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet turned the fewest overall laps – 71, and he was twenty-first overall. Title contender, Helio Castroneves AAA Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet ran the most laps – 142, for fifth overall. Points leader, Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, ran 112 laps
for ninth overall. The only other driver with a far-shot mathematical shot at the title, Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda, was sixteenth overall, with 93 laps.

Randy Gruenig & Pete Wagner

Randy Gruening & Pete Watson

Gary Barnhart, Beaux Barfield & Jo Anne Jensen

Gary Barnhart, Beaux Barfield & Jo Anne Jensen

Throughout the paddock things are underway for the first practice session. The Safety/Fire Rescue/Medical teams had their morning briefings, as did the IndyCar Course Observers who are stationed around the two-mile banked oval speedway. Two of them hail from San Francisco Region SCCA and have been working as Observers for many years. Randy Gruening has been doing it for 30 years, and Pete Wagner has 24 years at it.

At the other end of the communications loop is Race Control, with Beaux Barfield, Gary Barnhart and Jo Anne Jensen.
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Vintage indy cars

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GO PRO, DIXON!

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoras

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoras

Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet won the exciting GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series Race at Sonoma Raceway Sunday afternoon. He led once, for the final three laps. It was his thirty-fifth career victory, making him fifth on the all-time list, tied with Bobby Unser. Dixon now has 523 points, putting him fifth overall going into the season’s finale race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana – a double points race.

Dixon said “All in all it’s fantastic, a huge weekend for us, with 4-500 Target people in Victory Lane for this. All but one of my 35 victories have been with Chip Ganassi’s team. It’s cool.”

Regarding Sunday morning’s early wake up call registering 6.1 on the Richter Scale, Dixon said “I slept through most of the earthquake in Sonoma. I heard some screams. At the track, Hinchcliffe said his hotel was destroyed. I guess he thought he was dying. Must have been pretty interesting for him.”

Photos of Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud courtesy of Will Burghart.

Scott Dixon - Winner Circle x IMG_0869

Simon Pagenaud x IMG_0673

The GoPro race was one of the craziest, most unpredictable race, further proving that IndyCar racing is very exciting. There were eight different leaders with ten lead changes. Points leader/Pole sitter/favorite to win Power led the most laps but fell on hard times, and then afoul of the stewards, to finish tenth.

Three cautions punctuated the 85-lap race, for 11 laps.

Ryan Hunter-Reay No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda came in second, 1.1359 seconds behind. He was disappointed, but “I know the championship is still on the line as I’m fourth in the standings going into next week’s race, with 534 points. It was a fun day but unfortunately came up a little short.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon & Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Will Burghardt

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon & Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Will Burghardt

Finishing third was Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda, and also now third in the standings with 545 points. “The whole race was interesting. We made the race really in the pits as we had such good, fantastic pit stops. At the end I had to save a lot of fuel. I’m delighted and going to Fontana with a chance at the title.”

Fourth was Takuma Sato No.14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda. Sato led once for a lap.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Takuma Sato

Juan Pablo Montoya

Left to Right, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Juan Pablo Montoya. Photos by Jeff and Will Burghardt.

Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet finished fifth after an up and down day. He led twice, for four laps, and is now is sixth in the overall standings, mathematically still in contention for the Drivers Championship.

Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda was the top Rookie, finishing seventh.

Will Power

Sebastien Bourdais

Justin Wilson's No.19 Honda

Left to Right Photos: Will Power, Sebastian Bourdais and Justin Wilson. Photos courtesy of Will Burghardt.

Pole sitter Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet led twice for 33 laps, the most, and turned the fastest lap leader time of 106.305 mph. But a crazy spin on cold tires cost him the lead and his chance for more points. He also had a crazy last turn on last lap, going for a gutsy move past Justin Wilson No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Sebastien Bourdais No.11 Hydroxy KVSH Racing Chevrolet. He split them, hitting Wilson and putting Bourdais into the Turn 12 wall. Power thought it would be an easy move, but in his excitement, didn’t see the waving yellow flag at Turn 12 for the stalling car of Mike Conway No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Power and Wilson crossed the line in P9 and P10, respectively, but the order was replaced due to the waving yellow. Power was then credited with P10, and Wilson P9, moving Bourdais up to P11.

Power said “The way IndyCar races go, I maintain the points lead and go into Fontana to see what I can do. It was such a jolt when the car stepped out on me. I went around so quickly, it was crazy. I was really tight and I couldn’t believe it. I was on blacks (primary tires.) I was doing premature celebratory doughnuts.”

Regarding his last lap move in Turn 12, Power said “I was going for points and they (Wilson and Bourdais) looked like easy move. It was interesting, three wide. I actually can’t believe it and that was a hairy corner. I saw the opportunity and I wanted the points. Now, it’s head down, that’s it. I am ready to get some sleep, been up since 3:30am. The sleep-deprived Power was rudely awakened at 3:20 am by the 6.1 earthquake centered in nearby American Canyon, and the Penske Team was ‘evicted’ from their hotel, so headed to the track at 4 am.

This weekend is the tenth race Power led this season, and continues his record of leading at least ten races in the past five seasons. On the other side of the slate, the TV broadcasters said Power has the most penalties this season – five, with three on course and two off-track.

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet remains in second place for the Driver’s Championship, despite finishing eighteenth. He turned the fastest race lap of 106.942 mph on Lap 10. Photo courtesy of Jeff Burghardt.

Mike Conway

Disappointment was widespread. Mike Conway led twice for 21 laps, but his fuel ran out within sight of the Checkered Flag. He said “There was not much more I could do at the end of the race.” He finished P14, after going for third, and faltered right past the Starter.

Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal No.15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda had highs and lows, as he led almost to the checkered flag, when he ran out of fuel, to end up P20. He said “They told me the fuel number I needed to get, then Dad stopped giving me numbers and I thought I was OK, and then the (fuel) light came on.” And then, on his last pit stop for fuel, he got a speeding ticket, the only penalty of the race.

Right to Left Photos: Mike Conway, and Graham Rahal courtesy of Pablo Matamoros.

Other race leaders included Josef Newgarden No.67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, who started second, led once for two laps, and finished sixth; and Tony Kanaan No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet once for three laps, and finished thirteenth after starting eighth.

Scott Dixon

Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, and Carlos Munoz

Photos Left to Right: Scott Dixon, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves & Carlos Munoz. Courtesy of Pablo Matamoros

A melee on the first lap in Turn One involved several cars including Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe, plus Helio Castroneves, and Sebastien Bourdais who rear-ended Ryan Briscoe. Takuma Sato was also possibly involved as he pitted for body parts. This incident brought out the first full course caution. All drivers eventually continued. Bourdais pitted for a new nose and fuel, and Castroneves pitted for a new front wing and tires. Then Castroneves pitted again to remove right rear wheel guard and change all four tires, under a green flag, putting him in last place.

Throughout the broadcast, TV kept showing the Driver Championship standings as they would be at that moment, and IndyCar T&S showed the points on each lap. Then, after the race, someone somewhere knocked down or pulled the Internet cable, while all the media were desperately trying to beat their deadlines.

The top nine drivers started on the red option tires, as did Sebastian Saavedra, who started last. By Lap 16, Saavedra was up to P7. He went up to P3 during pit stops, being the only driver stayed out. Then dropped and raised throughout the race, finishing sixteenth.

The second full course caution was on Lap 30 for Rookie Carlos Huertas No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who was towed in. The third yellow was for Saavedra who was involved with Sebastien Bourdais No.11 Hydroxy KVSH Racing Chevrolet and Castroneves on Lap 37, one lap after the second restart. This time cars tried fitting three abreast, into Turn 7 – the corner which is considered the most demanding on brakes. That incident underwent Steward’s Review, with no action taken. Saavedra put to the back of the field for pitting during closed pits. He didn’t have far to go.

Brake wise, the drivers brake seven times during a lap on the 2.238-mile elevated road course, with 14.38 percent of the lap spent on braking.

This year the Pit Lane has painted lines showing the safety zone in which the crew must remain during a pit stop. This was brought about by the pit crew accident on Pit Lane.

And speaking of pits and grid and GoPro, there were a bunch of those ubiquitous cameras, mostly held high on GoPro poles or home-made sticks high above people shooting photos of everyone and everything.

In the Pre-Race festivities, Driver Intros this time included all drivers throwing a white Tshirt to the fans. Graham Rahal threw as though he’d gone to Spring Training. Castroneves drop-kicked his.

The next and final race of the 2014 season the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday night, 30 August 2014 in Fontana CA. And yet again, the Driver’s Championship comes down to the final race. Doesn’t get more exciting than that.

WARMING UP

Sonoma Raceway Ferris Wheel

The sun shone for the half-hour Warm-Up session for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma Raceway, leading up to the afternoon GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was final fastest in 10 am PDT session, with a lap of 1:19.0566/108.606 mph. Josef Newgarden No.67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, and Rookie Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing moved up to third at the last moment.

Fourth and fifth were Ryan Hunter Reay No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Chevrolet and Ryan Briscoe No.8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. All but Aleshin had led earlier on.

Justin Wilson's No.19 Honda

Justin Wilson’s No.19 Honda

Other leaders included: Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda; Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet; and Justin Wilson No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Was it coincidence as at the moment Newgarden moved to the top of the charts with less than five minutes to go in the session, the news was being distributed about him being signed for next year to race with the new CFH team, with a one year contract and a second year option? The new team combines the merger of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing.

So now we have a team name and at least one driver. Now to learn what will be the engine package, and if Ed Carpenter and Mike Conway will also continue to race in the split formation, with Carpenter on ovals, and Conway on road and street courses.

Newgarden starts on the front row for the afternoon IndyCar race, his third time on the front row this season.

Carlos Munoz No.34 Honda

Carlos Munoz No.34 Honda

All cars went out very quickly, with Rookie Carlos Munoz No.34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com Andretti Autosport Honda the last out of the chute.

The official IndyCar comment on the unexpected two-day schedule for the IndyCar race at the three-day Sonoma Raceway weekend: It’s to shorten test time. For the 2015 schedule, which will be released sometime after the end of this season, there will be more two-day weekends like next weekend’s season finale MAVTV race at Auto Club Speedway, which will be preceded by an all day open IndyCar test.

In the morning Warm-Up for the Indy Lights Series presented by Cooper Tires,
Rookie Luis Razia No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian was fastest at 1:28.4565. For the race, Championship Contender Gabby Chaves No.5 Belardi Auto Racing starts second behind Rookie Jack Harvey No.42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian. Even if Harvey wins Sunday’s race, Chaves could win the Championship based on all his runner-up positions. Stay tuned.

Chevrolet's Director of Racing, Mark Kent interviewed by RACER's Marshall Pruett, being filmed by Robin Miller

Chevrolet’s Director of Racing, Mark Kent interviewed by RACER’s Marshall Pruett, being filmed by Robin Miller

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Director of Chevrolet Racing, Mark Kent, and Derrick Walker, IndyCar Director of Competition, met with the Media to discuss Chevrolets third consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series Manufacturer Championship since Chevrolet came back to the open wheel series after a seven-year hiatus.

Kent said “It has not been easy, and it’s really the result of great partners, great teams, great drivers, and great technical partners. It’s just like everything General Motors does, we’re in racing to win, and we try to develop the best race cars. We’re also trying to develop the best production cars in the world, so we always strive to do the best, and we’re looking forward to next season and trying to make it four in a row.”

Walker said “There could be some tweaks to the 2015 Mfr Championship,” and Kent added “We really like the current formula so I don’t know who’s going to be in that meeting with you, but we really like the way it is right now, Derrick.”

Chevrolet and Honda both now use twin-turbo charged direct-injected V6 engines – the power plant that Chevrolet has had from the onset, and Honda this year when mandated by IndyCar.

Also this year the number of allowed engine changes during the season was decreased to four, to reward durability and reliability as well as performance. The changes came about after many conversations between IndyCar, Chevrolet and Honda, and what we all wanted to do. We all wanted to achieve a championship that actually meant what it was all about. Ten points to the manufacturer for each of its four engines going the limit of 2500 miles.Those going over their allotment were penalized ten points. Walker said “The system would be tweaked between seasons, but it’s a fine line between regulating performance and reliability. It a little bit more just to try and make it even closer to what we need. But it’s tough to draw the line and say one actually constitutes the final result, but I think the formula we’ve got right now, Chevrolet certainly did what it took to actually win under those circumstances, and performance and reliability were what it was all about in my opinion.”

Kent added “I think our reliability of the Chevrolet engine has been one of the key elements of us clinching this championship here today.”

Kent was proud of the fact that a driver from every Chevrolet organization has won at least one race. “We won our first race and we won the last race, but in between it’s been an absolute dog fight. Honda has been a very formidable opponent.”

Kent agreed with Walker that both Chevrolet and Honda welcome any other engine manufacturer, and on the other hand, Walker said “Underneath the surface, there is a fierce competition between manufacturers.”

Walker said that “There are ongoing discussions with two manufacturers, but anyone joining the series is a long way out. It takes a two-year ramp up. We have to make our product attractive so they want to participate.”

Having won the Manufacturer’s Championship. now Kent is absolutely looking forward to Chevrolet’s chances to also clinch the Driver’s Championship. “Absolutely. If you look at our score cards every year, we race to win championships. We race to win the manufacturer’s championship and the driver’s championship. Teams put a lot of faith in us as an engine manufacturer, so if we can in turn help them out with the driver’s championship, it’s a great feeling. We hope we come out of here with a big enough points lead that I can give my ulcer a break here and not have to worry about it between now and next weekend.”