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

One thought on “500 Mile Fontana: Race Notes

  1. Will Power. Which is pretty amazing to me considering the terrible mental mistakes he made this season. Man, it looks like a hot one out there tonight though!!!!

    Like

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