IndyCar – IndyCar World Championship 500: Always a Bridesmaid, Finally the Bride

indycar-2014-fontana-power-championWe’re used to a certain level of nearly unopposable domination from Will Power since he’s started in the IndyCar series. With only eight full-time seasons in American open-wheel, he’s already made it into the top twenty of all-time winners. Despite all the wins, he couldn’t quite put it all together for a championship.

The 2014 season wasn’t a typical Will Power season. While he started out the season strong, he had a massive slump through June and July that put teammate Helio Castroneves lead the title chase for the second half of the season. However, it wasn’t the typical late Will Power slump but an atypical resurgence that saw Will Power claim his first IndyCar championship.

However, before he was crowned the champion, Power had all the work to do. He was starting in 21st in the 22 car field with main title rival Helio Castroneves starting the race on pole. That gave him quick bonus points for the pole and leading a lap. He might have even scored the two bonus points for leading the most laps if it wasn’t for teammate Juan Montoya having the fastest ride for the first half of the race.

indycar-2014-fontana-castroneves-montoyaFor most of that first half, it looked as though Power was going find yet another way to choke away an IndyCar Series championship that should have been his. However, he got his car under him through pit stops and started climbing back up through the field. And with Castroneves slowly falling back in the field, the championship swung back in Power’s favour.

The race went green for the first 175 laps before Ryan Hunter-Reay spun in Turn 4 while trying to head to the lead. That was the last thing that Helio wanted to see because he was on point then. The pit stops saw the Ganassi cars get blistering stops to get to the front two spots but then Power was able to will his car to the front and pick up the bonus point.

However, it wasn’t too long before Tony Kanaan made his presence known at the front of the field. He led through the final cycle of pit stops. However, Helio Castroneves didn’t fare so well. He slid out of the pit entry lane and into the banking which was an automatic drive-through penalty. That ended his championship challenge and handed the title to Will Power.

indycar-2014-fontana-podiumTony Kanaan’s win is his first for Ganassi and the first for the team in 2014. Scott Dixon finished in second which gave CGR its first and only 1-2 finish of the year. And Ed Carpenter scored the final podium spot in the final race for his team before the Sarah Fisher Hartman merger.

Juan Montoya had control of the race early but once the sun went down, he didn’t quite have the same pace. As a result, the best he could manage was 4th. James Hinchcliffe remembered that he’s still driving for a 2015 contract with his 5th. Takuma Sato also put in a good for this season effort in 6th which is his third top ten in the last five races. Ryan Briscoe got his car into the top ten in 7th. Carlos Munoz wrapped up the Rookie of the Year title with an 8th. Will Power’s championship clinching finish was a 9th. And Josef Newgarden rounded out the top ten.

Also of note was something that happened in Friday’s final practice. Mikhail Aleshin had his rookie season come to a premature end when he had a massive crash in Turn 3 when he slid up the track when it appeared that he was avoiding Scott Dixon’s car who was on the apron to come to pit road.

indycar-2014-fontana-aleshin-crashAleshin’s car spun up the track, collected Charlie Kimball, climbed the SAFER barrier and hit the catch fence. The collision resulted in Aleshin’s car spinning repeatedly in mid-air and two sections of the catch fence being torn away.

Aleshin was initially listed in serious but stable condition with fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle, a concussion and chest injuries. After a procedure, the serious was dropped for plain old regular and welcome stable condition.

Of course, this incident brought up the classic talking point of whether the current catch fencing is really sufficient for these cars at these speeds. Between repeated wrecks in IndyCar’s history and NASCAR’s recent big crashes that saw cars shredded against catch fencing, you would think that someone would be examining a more modern update or alternative to the standard catch fence. However, for all the safety improvements on the cars and tracks, no one has touched the fences.

I’m not going to propose a solution because I have absolutely no idea what the best solution would be. Maybe a tighter mesh would work. Perhaps an NHL-style Plexiglas barrier would be best. That’s something that the FIA should be studying in conjunction with IndyCar and NASCAR. Everyone could benefit from a safer track.

Let’s do a quick update about the 2015 schedule. Houston is indeed out. The Toronto Indy won’t be held on the streets of Toronto but will head a little bit north to Mosport.

The Grand Prix of Louisiana will be the new event on the calendar (at least, until the international events are confirmed). The race will be at NOLA Motorsports Park and take place on April 12. That’s two weeks after St. Pete and also starts a three races in three weeks stretch followed by Long Beach and Barber.

And in silly season news, James Hinchcliffe may not yet have a contract for 2015 but his sponsor has already announced its intention to return to the sport for another year. United Fiber and Data announced that they would be back in IndyCar in 2015 but haven’t signed a deal with anyone yet. One would hope this is a prelude to Hinch returning to the #27 sponsored by UFD but you’d imagine that an announcement would have been made if that was the case.

Meanwhile, over at CFH Racing, it looks like the team will be running Chevy engines. The latest rumours indicate that while Honda really wants to keep Newgarden in the family. However, the engine capacity appears to be at Chevrolet so they’re going to power Newgarden and the shared ride of Ed Carpenter and likely Mike Conway.

indycar-2014-fontana-nbcsnAnd that wraps up our coverage of the 2014 IndyCar season. We’ll be back when there’s news. Maybe we can actually get a schedule before the new year.

Until we see you again, wear pants. People will see when you wear shorts behind the broadcast desk, even if the camera only shows you from the waist up.


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