500 Mile Fontana: Race Notes

The start of the 2013 MATV500 at Fontana.

The 2014 IndyCar season comes to an end tomorrow night under the lights at Fontana speedway.  This race will be a 250 mile, 500 lap race with double points awarded for the finishing positions.  Will Power is in a great position going into this race with a 51 point lead on teammate Helio Castroneves:


Schedule:

  • Qualifying: 5:15 p.m. EDT
  • Race: 10:15 p.m. EDT
There are a maximum of 104 points left to any one driver in the last race due to double points, leaving just the top three drivers in contention.  They are Will Power, Helio Castroneves (-51), and Simon Pagenaud (-81).  We broke down each of their chances of winning the championship in another post here.  

As for the track itself, Will Power has had the most recent success of the three drivers, winning this race from pole last year.  Along with him, Ed Carpenter is the only other driver currently in the field to win a race at Fontana.  But Power’s win was about more than just the race itself, it was also redemption for his 2012 crash at Fontana which cost him the Championship to Ryan Hunter-Reay:  




Will Power gained his confidence in the track back that race, just the thing he’ll need to retain the championship lead this year.

Lead changes and different leaders were prominent last year, with eleven different leaders of the 25 car field and 28 lead changes.  This is a testament to just how long the race is at the two mile track. In 2013, the race lasted 3:13 with seven laps (22%) of the race being run under caution.  Since the race is starting at 10:15 EDT at night, it won’t be done until close to 1 a.m.  That surely won’t be good for ratings with younger viewers or people on the East Coast.  


There isn’t much data to work with on Will Power at this track with only two races there.  He crashed out and finished 24th in 2012 (losing the championship) and then won the race from pole in 2013, polar opposite results.  But what we can learn about Will Power from this year is just his true dominance.  He’s had an average start of 3.6 this year, up 3.8 places from 2013.  And his average finish is just as impressive at 7.4 this year, with no DNF’s and completing 99.95% of all laps run (he finished a lap down in Houston).  


But even so, the Penske driver and car combo has been extremely reliable this year and shows no signs of stopping.  Even so, a crash or failure could quickly turn the table into teammate Helio Castroneves’ hands or even third place driver Simon Pagenaud:

“Yes, we have a lead going into this race but we can’t rest on that or it will go away fast. We have some tough guys chasing us so we need to try and stay in front of them and do the best we can to try and win. The rest will take care of itself.” – Will Power


The race will be a combination of fierce fighting from Castroneves and Pagenaud as well as some conservative racing from Power.  The last thing he needs to do is relive his 2012 peril and crash himself out of the championship.  

Since 1997, drivers going into the final race of the season with the championship lead ended up winning the championship 11 times out of 17, or 64.7% of the time. The history bodes well for Power, but it certainly isn’t all that convincing. Especially once you throw in the fact that in the last five years, the leader going into the final race lost it four out of those five times. Want something else to think about?  Three of those four times the championship leader (going into the race) was Will Power.


But don’t count out Ryan Hunter-Reay or Juan Pablo-Montoya just yet when it comes to a race win at Fontana.  Both driver have had wins at the two other 500 mile tracks this year, Indianapolis and Pocono, respectively.  JPM has been particularly strong on ovals, and he’s the current oval championship points leader.  Montoya will definitely have another run at a race win this year come Saturday night.  

Who do you think will win both the championship title as well as the race itself?  Let me know in the comments below.  

          – Drew Bennison

IndyCar Features

Gabby Chaves Wins IndyLights Title

Gabby Chaves celebrates after winning the Indy Lights title.

The 2014 Indy Lights title was decided last weekend in Sonoma, California.  This was the first championship win for Gabby Chaves after only two years in the series, and it came in an unusual way.


Approaching the end of the race, Chaves was right where he needed to be and he knew it. Finishing the race in second wasn’t a problem for his championship hopes, but finishing any lower would be detrimental as his rival points competitor was leading the race.  

When the checkered flag waved, the points standings were tied between Chaves and Harvey with 547 points each.  The tiebreak went to first place finishes which were equal between the drivers (with 4 each) thanks to Jack Harvey’s late season bloom, winning four out of the last five races.  

Then second place finishes came around and Chaves trumped his rival in that category with a 5-1 lead due to his immense consistency this year.  He has finished inside the top five 11 out of the 14 races and in all of the last eight races.
  

“It was the longest race of my life. Obviously, I knew where I needed to finish. There was no reason for me to push to keep up with Jack. Racing is a game of being the fastest, but also a game of consistency and a game of strategy,” Chaves said after the race.  


With the series win this year the Colombian driver will receive a $750,000 scholarship to help advance him to the Verizon IndyCar series in 2015.  

          – Drew Bennison  

Weekly Report: Power’s Championship, Vettel Drives Sochi and More

Scott Dixon and RHR Battle at Sonoma.


Each week, we take a look at our most popular articles and stories from around the web and put them into one post. Some of them will be data based and some will be just interesting or important news stories in the racing world.  This is the Weekly Report.  


Popular On Our Site

From Around The Web

Note: If you have an article you think should make it into the Weekly Report next week, let us know by sending it in through the form on the contact page. 

We’ll take a look at it and perhaps put it in next weeks edition!

The Leaders

IndyCar – Will Power – 626 Points

Formula 1 – Nico Rosberg – 220 Points

Also This Week

The IndyCar season finale is this Saturday in Fontana, California.  The Fontana race notes will be up Saturday morning before qualifying.

Follow Single Seater on Twitter for as-they-run points updates throughout the race.  
       
          – Drew Bennison

It’s Will Power’s Championship To Lose

Will Power spins out at the 2012 Fontana race.

Penske driver Will Power leads the 2014 championship standings going into the final race of the season in Fontana, CA.  He goes into the race with a lead of 51 points, nearly double the lead Scott Dixon had on Helio Castroneves going into Fontana last year.  But all is not won yet for Power, the 500 mile Fontana race is a double points race, meaning a maximum of 104 points are available to any one driver.  Five drivers are currently eligible to win the championship (although some unlikely), so we’re going to take a look at how the points could play out:


Power’s dominance in the early stages of the Sonoma race was setting him up for a huge point lead going into the final race, but things didn’t stay that way for him:

After spinning the car around Power never really regained the great form we saw earlier in the race, only managing to put the car into 10th after qualifying on pole and leading 33 laps of the race.  This was an opportunity for Helio Castroneves to make up some real ground on the leader, but he failed to do so.  Castroneves finished the race in 18th place and scored just 12 points, not what he needed going to Fontana, a track Power dominated the last year winning from pole and leading over half of the laps run.  

As mentioned above, the top five drivers in the standings still have a shot at the championship, those drivers are: Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon, and obviously Will Power.  

Update: 1:19 p.m. 8/29 – Dixon is out of contention for the championship now that Will Power has turned laps in the practice session.

Scott Dixon would have to have a perfect day; he would need to win the race, lead the most laps (and thereby lead a lap), win pole position and (here’s the secret ingredient) not have Power race. Yes, the minute the green flag drops Will Power could park his car and walk off the track and still beat Dixon.  Coming in last place of a 22 car field would yield him eight points. Even if Dixon has the perfect day described above, Will Power would finish the year with a seven point lead on him.  

Update: 1:19 p.m. 8/29 – Hunter-Reay is out of contention for the championship now that Will Power has turned laps in the practice session.

His next competitor is the 2014 Indy 500 winner and 2012 series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.  RHR came out of the Indy race and hit a slump, immediately.  He finished 16th, 19th and 19th again in the next three races, not unlike some of his other Indianapolis 500 winner brothers.  Tightening up in the last third of the season, Hunter-Reay has put himself fourth in the championship for the season finale.  In order to get a second IndyCar championship win, he’ll also need some help from Power.  If RHR wins the race, he’d have 635 points (not taking into account pole and most laps led bonus points) and Power would have 634 if he comes in 22nd. Again, this scenario is low probability but it has more of a chance than Dixon’s.  The Andretti team will have to hope for a mechanical failure or crash on the #12 car as well as poor results from Castroneves and Pagenaud if they want to claim the championship.  

Will Power crashed at Fontana in 2012, losing the championship to the aforementioned Ryan Hunter-Reay:
    




The Frenchmen Simon Pagenaud trails the leader by just 81 points, certainly doable in this double points race.  Pagenaud hasn’t been a fan of Fontana, with an average finish of 14.3 over the last three years.  That result wouldn’t get him anywhere near the top of the standings with two very dominant drivers ahead of him.  However, if he can manage a first place finish (he needs it), Power would have to finish 11th or worse.  This is not too far off, though, Power did crash out of the 2012 race and finished 24th.  Simon Pagenaud really needs a solid weekend and a poor one from Power and Castroneves. 

Since 1997, drivers going into the final race of the season with the championship lead ended up winning the championship 11 times out of 17, or 64.7% of the time.  The history bodes well for Power, but it certainly isn’t all that convincing.  Especially once you throw in the fact that in the last five years, the leader going into the final race lost it four out of those five times. Want something else to think about?  Three of those four times the championship leader (going into the race) was Will Power.  Power will be looking to hold onto the points lead this time round and win the championship.  

Helio Castroneves is the driver with the best chance of winning the championship and taking it away from Power for the fourth time.  To do that, he’ll need a good finish but not necessarily a win.  To help you figure out how the points will run during the race, we put together a chart below (click to enlarge) to see who would win the championship in each finishing situation.  The chart doesn’t account for pole position points (+1), leading a lap (+1), or most laps led (+2) points:  


As you can see, the chart is overwhelming black for Will Power.  It is surely his championship to lose this year.  Power has been driving a career best season, 602 points so far this year and an average finish of 6.3.  He’s been flat out dominant this year, no DNF’s and he’s led 28.7% of all the laps turned.  If Power can’t come through in the final championship race this year with as big a point margin as he has, I’m not sure if he will ever be able to.

For live, as-they-run points throughout the IndyCar season finale, follow Single Seater on Twitter.  

         – Drew Bennison

Update: 1:16 p.m. 8/29

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IndyCar Features

Grand Prix of Sonoma: Race Notes


The Grand Prix of Sonoma and the season finale in Fontana are the two remaining races in the 2014 IndyCar season.  With only two to go in the season, we broke down the odds of each driver (in contention) winning the championship.

Going into these final two races, a minimum of 150 points are available to any one driver (this doesn’t include pole position or laps led points). That means any of the top six drivers in the points standings have a shot at winning the title going into the final races. 

Schedule:

  • Qualifying: 7:35 p.m. 8/23 EDT
  • Race: 4:40 p.m. 8/24 EDT

Note: We grade the the driver’s chance of winning the championship on a scale of 0-10.  A 0 means the driver can’t win the championship and a 10 means he has no chance of losing it.  

Scott Dixon is the driver furthest out, 130 points back from Will Power. Dixon finished 15th and 13th the last two years in this race, respectively, not high enough to take the fight to Power.  His average finish at Sonoma is 8.0, with one win as well as a second place podium in 2010.  Dixon has been on a hot streak in the past few races, finishing inside the top ten in the last six races.  Scott will need an amazing performance in the next two races as well as some luck on his side to win the championship this year.  

SD – Chance of Winning Championship: 1/10

5th in the points standings is Juan Pablo Montoya, 114 points out from the leader.  Montoya has had a successful return to IndyCar with a win and four podiums so far this year. His only win this year came at Pocono, one of the two other 500 mile races aside from Fontana.  With eight results inside the top ten and eight out, the Penske driver has had some good and bad results this year, putting his average finish at 10.3.  His average finish comes in slightly higher than his start which is 10.3.  Montoya has had a history of good success at the long ovals and Sonoma, but he’ll need some poor performances from Power and Castroneves to have a shot at the title.

JPM – Chance of Winning Championship: 2/10

108 points separate the Indianapolis 500 winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, from Will Power. RHR has had difficulty after placing first in the 500, securing only three top ten finishes in the 11 races after.  He came sixth in this race last year, putting him third in the points behind Scott Dixon.  The last couple races haven’t been kind to RHR, his highest finish coming in Mid-Ohio at just tenth.  If Hunter-Reay hopes to take another shot at the IndyCar Championship, his run will need to start with a win this Sunday.

RHR – Chance of Winning Championship: 2/10 

Simon Pagenaud has been Mr. Consistency in the points standings, staying in third or fourth place throughout the entire year bar the first race.  Pagenaud has two wins this year and an average finish of 8.4.  But where he has been most successful is in qualifying, 10 top ten starts with an average of 7.9 so far.  In the race last year, Simon finished 5th in the Sonoma Grand Prix after starting 10th.  With Pagenaud’s consistency this year he should prove to have another good result in the Sonoma race, but will need some help from the leaders.  

SP – Chance of Winning Championship: 4/10

Helio Castroneves was the leader of the points for four races this season, losing it after Mid-Ohio where he finished 19th and his teammate Will Power took the lead.  Castroneves finished seventh in this race last year, right on par with his average finish of 7.4.  Where Helio has really proven himself at Sonoma is in qualifying, never failing to start outside of the top five.  If he can get himself up there again, he’ll have a good chance of taking the fight to Penske teammate Will Power.  In order for Catroneves to take the lead back (not taking into account extra points for pole, leading), he’ll have to win the race and have Power finish in 20th or worse.  

HC – Chance of Winning Championship: 6/10

Finally we arrive at the current point leader, Will Power.  Power only has to do one thing this weekend, beat Castroneves.  If he does that he’ll put himself in great position to win the championship next week, where he finished first last year.  Will also won at Sonoma last year, putting himself in a great position for this weekend.  He won’t be able to secure the championship this race because of the double points, but a win would all but secure his IndyCar Championship.  Look for Power to be on point this weekend, coming off a string of successful finishes and win last weekend in Milwaukee.  

WP – Chance of Winning Championship: 8/10

Sonoma has huge championship implications and is a must win for driver Helio Castroneves if he hopes to win the championship this year. 

Let us know who you think will win both the Grand Prix of Sonoma and the 2014 Driver’s Championship in the comments below.  

          – Drew Bennison