IndyCar – Wisconsin 250: Powering to a Championship

indycar-2014-milwaukee-power-checkered-flagWill Power is easily the best driver in IndyCar right now. He’s been the best driver in IndyCar since joining Team Penske in 2009. However, he hasn’t been able to seal the deal and win the IndyCar Series championship. His poor form on ovals and an occasional bout of bad luck has resulted in him finishing in the top five in each of the last four seasons and three-straight runner-up finishes from 2010 to 2012.

Unfortunately for the IndyCar series field, Power seems to have found his oval form. He finished 8th in the 500, 2nd in Texas and a blocking penalty away from a podium or even a win in Pocono. The final stretch of the 2014 IndyCar Series season seems to be the start of a coronation as Will Power won the Wisconsin 250 and stretched his championship lead.

To even attempt to summarize this race would be a colossal waste of your time. Power led four times for 229 of the race’s 250 laps. Each time he lost the lead was on an exchange of pit stops. Only once did he not cycle through to the front. That was when Tony Kanaan short pitted to gain the advantage from fresh tires. Power was too fast, though, and was able to power by TK to regain the lead. They had an epic side-by-side duel after a restart but nobody had anything on Power.

indycar-2014-milwaukee-podiumThe win was Power’s third of the season and officially snapped his summer slump. Juan Montoya finished in 2nd after a slow final pit stop delayed Tony Kanaan and dropped him to 3rd. Mind you, many would argue that Montoya shouldn’t have finished second but rather should have been penalized for hitting his tire on a pit stop early in the race. A drive-through penalty would have certainly taken him out of contention for the podium.

Scott Dixon finished in 4th. Josef Newgarden pitted late for fuel, took four fresh tires at the same time and sliced his way from 12th and one lap down to 5th and on the lead lap over the final 13 laps. That was a hero’s run and that kid has all the talent in the world. Ryan Briscoe was Newgarden’s final victim with a Lap 249 pass relegating him to 6th. Simon Pagenaud had what most would consider a good day in 7th but it didn’t help him in his championship hunt. Teammate Mikhail Aleshin finished 8th. Ed Carpenter crossed the line 9th. And Jack Hawksworth rounded out the top ten.

With the win, Power blew the championship wide open. His win and Helio’s 11th place finish means that his championship lead went from four points to 39 points. Castroneves isn’t out of this by any stretch with two races to go and a double-points race to close out the season in Fontana. Right now, though, it looks like he’s going to need to handily beat Power in the final race of the season to win the championship.

Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay went from longshots for the championship to right out of it. They’re now 92 and 108 points behind the championship leader, respectively. While there are still enough points for them to win the title, I wouldn’t hold my breath. There’s always next season.

It’s been only a couple of weeks since Mid-Ohio but there’s a heck of a lot of silly season news happening.

After a championship and an Indy 500 together and with no other top rides open heading into 2015, it wasn’t a surprise that Ryan Hunter-Reay re-signed with Andretti Autosport.

RHR and his primary sponsor DHL have inked with AA in a multi-year contract that is reported to go through the 2017 season. Since joining AA in 2010, he’s won 11 races and the 2012 championship. DHL has been on the side of Hunter-Reay’s car since 2011 so they’ve been around for 10 wins, the championship and the 500.

indycar-2014-milwaukee-hinchcliffeStill up in the air is the status of the #27 car currently occupied by James Hinchcliffe. However, since Mid-Ohio, rumours have popped up that Honda is very interested in keeping Simon Pagenaud in the fold. That might even include an opportunity in Formula One with a Honda-powered team. Honda is looking at getting Simon an opportunity to test their new F1 engine which would mean an opportunity driving for McLaren. You have to think that any future IndyCar contract would have to have an escape clause for him to jump to F1 or a test/reserve role with an F1 team.

Just when we thought that there would be two seats open at Rahal Letterman Lannigan Racing, that second driver better come with money. The National Guard has ended their motorsports sponsorship program. For RLL, that was a sponsorship worth upwards of $12 million. Prior to this season, Graham had a group of sponsors splitting time on his car. One would assume that’ll be the 2015 plan since a $12 million sponsor is generally hard to come by.

Bigger silly season news that requires its own section time.

Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing are going to merge starting in the 2015 season. The two teams are single-car efforts in a world where multi-car teams and outfits with technical alliances are the ones getting ahead in motorsport.

It’s likely that the two teams’ merger was aided in part by the relationship with Ed. Carpenter scored SFHR’s only win in 2011 at Kentucky. He since went on to win two races for ECR with Mike Conway winning a pair in the #20 this season.

indycar-2014-milwaukee-newgardenFor now, it looks like the merger will see the operation running two cars next season with Ed running ovals in the #20 and an unconfirmed driver on road/street courses. Josef Newgarden hasn’t been signed yet for 2015 but it doesn’t look like he has anywhere else to go and there’s no one better for the newly minted CFH Racing team to sign.

The other interesting point to note from this pending merger is the engine situation. ECR runs Chevrolet power while Fisher runs Honda. Currently Honda powers 12 of the 22 entries in the series so which engines the team runs going forward might come down to who has the capacity to power another car.

The 2015 IndyCar Series season schedule is taking shape and the season is almost guaranteed to be longer than this season.

If IndyCar’s current plan is fulfilled, the domestic IndyCar season will run from the end of March to Labour Day weekend again. However, two international races are planned for February and early March to extend the season and grow the series internationally. A street race in Dubai and a race in Brazil at the Autodromo Internacional Nelson Piquet in Brazilia are the planned foreign IndyCar events. The trip the UAE has been rumoured for years while the return to Brazil is very much expected considering the number of drivers from South America in the series.

Apart from that, most of the races will take place roughly at the same time of year as they did this year. There are a few exceptions. Toronto has to move its doubleheader to avoid a conflict with the Pan-Am games in July. Houston might be moved out of the end of June because of the weather. Texas hasn’t confirmed if it will return to the schedule next year. And the New Orleans Motorsport Park is looking for a date on next year’s calendar and is likely going to plug the possible Texas/Houston/Toronto hole left by the schedule shuffle.

indycar-2014-milwaukee-newgardenThe next round of the 2014 IndyCar Series season is the penultimate round of the year. It’s a return to California for the second of three races is the state this year. After the street race in Long Beach, it’s a trip to wine country for the road course California race, the Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Five of the last six and last four consecutive Sonoma GPs have been won by Penske with Will Power winning three of the last four races there. With the championship on the line and a chance to all but cement his first IndyCar Series title with another win, I wouldn’t put my money against him this week.

Both Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud have good track records on road courses and have a championship to think of so I would think that they’re gunning for the win. That would be the only chance they have to stay mathematically eligible for the championship. Helio has had a bad run at road courses this season so I wouldn’t count on a sudden resurgence but he could really use one this weekend to leave him a chance at Fontana.


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