500 Miles to Decide a Champion [MAVTV 500 Live Thread]
This is the third chance Power has had to win the championship. Two years ago, Will led Dario Franchitti by 12 points going into the last race, but hit the wall at Homestead and finished 25th to lose the title. Last year. Power again led Franchitti, this time by 5 points with two races left. At Kentucky though, a pit collision with Ana Beatriz turned that lead into an 18 point deficit. The next race of course was Las Vegas, which was cancelled after the tragic death of Dan Wheldon.
For Ryan Hunter-Reay, this is the culmination of a career year that has finally seen him find a home at Andretti Autosport. For the past two weeks, the talk of the series was whether Hunter-Reay would stay with Andretti or take an offered ride at Team Penske, replacing Ryan Briscoe. Last night it was reported that Hunter-Reay has signed a 2 year contract to stay with Andretti. For Hunter-Reay, it was choosing to remain loyal to the team that plucked him from journeyman status and took his career to new heights. While turning down Roger Penske could not have been easy, it's hard to argue with the decision.
With this being a 500 mile race, predicting how it will go is next to impossible. The variables are just too great, especially with these new engines. The cars will be set up similar to what they were at Texas, with less downforce. The result there was a fantastic race, but not the pack racing of old. The racing should be similar tonight. There's also the changes to the track conditions that will occur as the race goes from day to night, further emphasizing the unpredictability.
While most don't have the feeling of dread that came before last year's season finale, there have been some concerns levied. Mike Conway decided he wasn't comfortable with running with big ovals anymore, and thus Wade Cunningham will take his place. The racing world has by and large supported Conway, who of course has had some very scary wrecks at Indianapolis. These men and women don't owe us anything, as they are the ones risking their lives, and if they are not comfortable in the car, they shouldn't be out there. Bravo to Conway for speaking up. He hasn't been the only one. EJ Viso tweeted last night that he wouldn't race if more downforce wasn't added. That, however, appears to have been resolved, and Viso is expected to take the green flag.
Marco Andretti will start on the pole, with Ryan Briscoe, who remains in limbo for next year, starting next to him. Over half the field took engine penalties, including the championship contender. Will Power thus will start 13th, and Ryan Hunter-Reay 22nd. Given that it's a 500 mile race on an oval though, starting position isn't considered all that important.
Tonight another wild and crazy IndyCar season comes to an end. A new champion will be crowned. For some drivers, it will be their last ride with their current team, and maybe their last as an IndyCar drivers. We will say goodbye to Lotus (that sound you hear is Simona de Silvestro weeping with joy). More importantly, we will say goodbye to Bob Jenkins, who is retiring to spend more time with his ailing wife. Bob is one of the best around, and he will very much be missed.
My pick for the race is Tony Kanaan, because well, it's TK. Why not? My pick for the championship though is Will Power. It's been a great year for Hunter-Reay, but my hunch is this is finally Will's time. The broadcast starts on NBC Sports Network at 7:30, with green flag around 8:50 pm eastern. Timing and scoring can be found here, and More Front Wing's event summary here.
Will Ryan Hunter-Reay win America's first IndyCar championship in six years? Or will Will Power finally win the championship that has eluded him the last two years? We have 500 miles of superspeedway racing to decide it. Q it up here throughout the race.