The Frontstretch: IndyCar In-Depth: MAV TV 500 Season Finale Preview by Huston Ladner -- Friday October 18, 2013

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IndyCar In-Depth: MAV TV 500 Season Finale Preview

Huston Ladner · Friday October 18, 2013


Helio Castroneves suffered through a terrible weekend at Houston, finishing 18th and 23rd in the two races. The results dropped him to second in the points, 25 behind Scott Dixon. What must be frustrating for Castroneves is to have watched his teammate Will Power run so well, knowing that had he enjoyed even mediocre results the championship race would be so much tighter.

Winning at Pocono makes Scott Dixon one of two drivers (Tony Kanaan is the other) with a chance to win a bonus for capturing two of the three Triple Crown events if he wins in Fontana.

As for Dixon, he’s got to be feeling great. He has frequently shined on high-speed ovals, and the Ganassi organization ruled the day when they were at Pocono a few months ago. It’d be over the top to claim that he’s got the championship in his hip pocket, but he’s not that far from walking away with it.

But not so fast my friend. The points leader going into the final race has failed to hold on the last four years. That’s incredible! That trend is a bizarre one and seems to serve as an omen for Dixon. Or maybe not.

The last driver to hold on to the championship lead and enjoy spending time with the Astor Cup while getting drenched in champagne was: Scott Dixon. Dixon went into Fontana with a 30-point lead over Castroneves. The two ran strong all day and Castroneves pipped Dixon at the line by .0033 of a second. Dixon walked away the big winner as he still held a 17-point edge. Yogi Berra would appreciate the sense of déjà vu going into this weekend.

Additional note: Scott Dixon – 18 oval-track wins. Helio Castroneves – 16 oval-track wins.

Additional note #2: This year marks the eighth straight when the championship has come down to the final race.

Additional note #3: Penske goes into the final race of the season for the sixth straight year with an opportunity to win the championship.

What’s News

Maybe you’ve heard about that championship or something.

Aside from the championship, there’s the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown bonus. The two drivers with a chance to add $250,000 to their coffers are Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon. Kanaan is eligible thanks to his Indy 500 victory, while Dixon earned the chance by taking Pocono. Should Dixon earn the win at Fontana he’ll have all kinds of reasons to celebrate; a party that might last a while.

The Track

Roger Penske acquired what used to be a steel production facility and modeled the track after Michigan. The two-mile, D-shaped oval first hosted an IndyCar race in 1997. Gil de Ferran holds the track record with a qualifying pace of 241.428 mph (30.255 sec). Since then times have dropped and the 2012 pole-sitter, Marco Andretti, posted a two-lap average of 216.069 mph (1:06.6455 sec). Ed Carpenter, in a bit of a surprise, won last year’s iteration.

What’s the points? Drivers

Beyond Dixon, Castroneves (-25), there’s Simon Pagenaud who has been holding steady in third though, followed by, eh, whatever.

What’s the points? Manufacturers

Amazingly, Chevrolet and Honda are tied. In the first half of the season it appeared that the bow-tie would run away with this honor, but Honda has enjoyed a successful second half. Should Honda win, it will have to taste sweet-n-sour as Ganassi is switching engine companies next year, leaving Honda without a marquee organization to represent them, though speculation is that Andretti will sign with them.

Driver to Watch

Ed Carpenter is an excellent choice here. While his season has been up, down, and all over the place, he has still been successful on ovals. His win last year at Auto Club is one reason to go with him. A better reason is that he claimed pole-position for the Indy 500 and that he has scored top tens at all four of the high-speed tracks in 2013.

Other news?

The 2014 schedule is to be announced prior to the MAV TV 500. While the racing has been rather good at times this year the schedule has been something of a dumpster-fire. The Indianapolis road course race has already been announced to open up the month of May and shine a spotlight at the revered track. Baltimore has been dropped. What other changes are in store?

Who Ya Got?

How about Dixon with a clean sweep? The win. The bonus. The title. You could argue that all IndyCar drivers are able to exist outside of the spectre of celebrity, but Dixon, for all his success, might be the example par excellence. A third championship should establish him as ‘the guy’ in the paddock. Frontstretch’s Matt Stallknecht sees Marco Andretti claiming the win with Dixon as the champ, while Toni Montgomery thinks on-again, off-again driver A.J. Allmendinger will win with Dixon cruising home.

What’s Next?

The 2014 season.

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