The final round of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series visits the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for the MAVTV 500 which will decide the 2014 Series Champion.
The Auto Club Speedway is a two-mile (3km) low banked D shaped oval superspeedway in Fontana, California which has hosted the CART Marlboro 500 from 1997-2002 and IRL 400 from 2002-2005, with both events being 500 and 400 miles respectively. In 2012 it returned back to the IndyCar Series calendar as the last round of the championship with a 500-mile night race.
This is the ninth consecutive time that the final round of the championship will host the decider to determine who will become the IndyCar Series champion.
There are over 250 laps with over 804.672km in distance with a transition from sunset to night making the changeable conditions tough for the drivers. The steadily reducing ambient and track temperatures can drastically change the cars’ handling and tyre wear, calling for a set-up that serves as a compromise for the changes over the race.
A total of 104 points are available in the 250 lap race with championship leader Will Power (pictured above) coming into the weekend with a 51-point lead over his Team Penske team mate Hélio Castroneves.
He is 81 points ahead of Frenchman Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, who is also in contention for his first IndyCar crown.
The 2012 title winner and current Indy 500 Champion for Andretti Autosports, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and multiple-time champion, Scott Dixon, are still in with a mathematical chance to win their second and fourth IndyCar titles respectively.
The momentum and points advantage very much sits with Power, who was in control to win last weekend at Sonoma for the fourth time in the past five years until his number 12 Team Penske entry spun in traffic exiting the slow right hand hairpin at Turn 7. He lost eight positions on the lap but didn’t create further problems by panicking. After he pitted on lap 61 for fresh rubber, he made up ground in the race that had 20 cars on the lead lap with 10 lead changes.
His team mate Castroneves started sixth at Sonoma and was involved in a multi-car incident less than 30 seconds into the race and also had further contact in his Team Penske number 3 entry on lap 36. He finished 18th.
There are an extra four points also on offer, which could make or break the with 1 for the Verizon P1 Award, 1 for the fastest lap of the race and 2 for the driver with the most laps led with the 100 points for the winning driver.
Power won last year’s finale at the Auto Club Speedway, which was his first victory on the superspeedway. For Power to become Australia’s first IndyCar Series Champion he must finish sixth or higher, irrespective of where his rivals finish.
For Castroneves to win the title in the double points finale at the Triple Crown Series under lights on the two mile oval, the Brazilian would have to win with Power finishing eighth. Other ways include Castroneves finishing second and Power finishing 16th and Castroneves finishing third and Power 21st.
This weekend’s finale is set to be a thriller. Last year, only nine cars finished the race, with Target Chip Ganassi driver Dixon claiming his third championship.
The question that remains is who will end years of heartbreak? Can Power score his maiden title after 3 years of finishing runner up, or Castroneves win his first after finishing runner-up or third five times.
Or will Pagenaud claim is first crown, Hunter-Reay taking a clean sweep with this seasons Indianapolis 500 and his second title, or Dixon have luck play back into his hands for his fourth title? We’ll find out on Saturday night!
Image via Motorsport.com
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