Will Helio finally win the championship, or is it Dixon's time? [MAVTV 500 Live Thread]
The two principles in the title chase are Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves. Dixon is looking for his third championship to join his 2003 and 2008 wins, while Castroneves looks to finally win his first IndyCar crown. Dixon, however, leads by 25 points, the result of a 1st and 2nd at the Houston doubleheader while Helio had issues in both races. Helio had led by 49 points going into that doubleheader weekend. 16th and Georgetown has put together a chart showing what Helio needs to come from behind and win. It's pretty simple though. Helio must win, or at least worse finish 2nd, to have a realistic chance. For Dixon, it's also simple. Finish 6th or better and the title is his no matter what.
Most of the other news is IndyCar concerns next season. Andretti Autosport announced much of its plans this week. James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti resigned with the team, Hinchcliffe with new sponsorship. They also announced a switch to Honda, a good counter for the manufacturer after Ganassi switched to Chevy. The other big paddock move was Sebastien Bourdais signing a 2 year deal with KV Racing. He'll replace Tony Kanaan, who is off to Ganassi.
The other big news of the week was the release of the 2014 schedule. The big story here is how condensed it is, with 19 races crammed into five months. Baltimore (date conflicts) and Brazil (promoter issues) are off the schedule, while the much discussed Grand Prix of Indianapolis joins. The doubleheader weekends are the same three as this year, and a few dates move. Houston to June 28-29 (which is a terrible idea unless the plan is for everyone to melt), Milwaukee to August 17, and the finale here in Fontana to August 30.
For tonight's race, there are many grid changes. The most obvious one is Alex Tagliani, subbing for the injured Dario Franchitti. Team Penske counters with adding third car for AJ Allmendinger. JR Hildebrand will drive the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport machine, while Pippa Mann gets into the #18 at Dale Coyne Racing. Finally, Carlos Munoz replaces EJ Viso in the #5 car. According to Viso, he is "sick," but no one seems to believe that. Viso has stated his uncomfortableness with this track before. Plus, there is a developing situation involving currency disbursement by race car drivers in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government, through CITGO of course, is Viso's sponsor.
Will Power will start on the pole for tonight's race, with Allmendinger and Bourdais accompanying him on the first row (rows of 3 tonight since this is a Triple Crown race). Helio and Dixon are starting 12th and 17th respectively, as both changed engines and took the penalty. Given the length of the race and the wideness of the track, starting position is mostly not an issue here. Defending race champion Ed Carpenter, trying to win his 3rd season finale in a row, starts 7th.
Coverage starts at 8:00 on NBC Sports Network, with the green flag coming at 9:10 (20 minutes later than originally so the glare of sunset wouldn't affect the drivers, a necessary safety change). Timing and scoring can be found here. More Front Wing's Event Summary can be found here. Q it up here throughout the MAVTV 500 and the crowning of the 2013 IndyCar Series champion.