|Photo Credit: Michael L. Levitt for Chevy Racing|
The final event of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series, the year concludes in Fontana, California at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway. Preparing for a 500-mile Saturday night closing of the 19-race season, a championship is up for grabs between two long-time titans of the open-wheel racing series. Also, aside from the fight to be the overall best of the 2013 season, the IZOD IndyCar Series' MAVTV 500 presents a final chance for drivers to add to their year's resumes. A victory on the very speedy Auto Club Speedway would be the ideal way to cap off the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series for every one of the 25 drivers starting on Saturday.
Qualifying using a two-lap time average, the 2013 MAVTV 500 pole was snatched by Australian Will Power. With a time of 1 minute, 5.2247 seconds, Power's #12 Dallara-Chevrolet recorded an average speed of 220.775 miles per hour over the two laps around Auto Club Speedway. Seated seventh in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar points standing, Will Power's year ends with him out of contention for the overall championship for the first time since he began running full-time for Team Penske. It was a surreal 2013 season for Will Power who struggled during multiple road course races (a type of racing the Australian driver excelled in over previous years). Recent wins at Sonoma and race two of the Houston event has returned Will Power to typical form.
Nearly 1.1 miles per hour slower than Will Power, Helio Castroneves still posts a strong time with the #3 Team Penske car. Entering this final race of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series, Castroneves is trailing Target Chip Ganassi driver Scott Dixon by 25 points. Castroneves held the point lead through much of the season but lost it due to struggles in The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston weekend. The Brazilian is attempting to regain the points lead at the most crucial time. Hunting his third IndyCar championship and first since 2008, New Zealand's Scott Dixon qualified seventh with his Honda powered #9 car.
With the championship at stake, the teams of both Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon elected to place fresh engines in their race cars for the 500-mile Saturday night event. By doing so, each driver will be demoted 10 places from their qualifying spots. Therefore, Helio Castroneves will start 12th in his Team Penske machine while Scott Dixon will be starting 17th in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing supported vehicle. Based on the complexity of long-distance oval races on the IZOD IndyCar Series, starting position in the MAVTV 500 is not considered too serious for drivers and teams.
Returning for the finale, popular part-time driver AJ Allmendinger is piloting the #2 machine for Team Penske. In qualifying, a third fastest time by Allmendinger solidified the organization's quick pace on a two-mile track car owner Roger Penske built and originally operated.
Behind the Team Penske domination of the Auto Club Speedway qualifying, the Dragon Racing car co-owned by Roger Penske's son Jay will start the MAVTV 500 third over a fourth-fastest qualifying effort by Sebastien Bourdais. Posting a fifth-fastest time on Friday, Charlie Kimball driving the Chip Ganassi owned #83 car is starting fourth due to Castroneves' penalty. Tenth in the overall drivers' points, Kimball's 2013 racing effort is a considerable improvement over his previous two years in the series. Also worth of full marks is James Jakes who qualified at an average speed of 217.979 miles per hour for sixth fastest on Friday. Jakes' time was actually identical to seventh place Scott Dixon.
Won last year by Ed Carpenter (who starts 8th on Saturday night), the MAVTV 500 is considered a wild card event where almost any competitor has a fair shot at winning. AJ Allmendiner, Alex Tagliani driving in substitution for an injured Dario Franchitti for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 2013 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year standout Carlos Manoz, Pippa Mann and JR Hildebrand returning to the series driving the Bryan Herta Autosport #98 car are limited or one-race deals that could easily pull off an upset against the field of regulars. While the Team Penske cars powered by Chevrolet proved strong in qualifying, Honda won the last IndyCar oval event at Pocono with a race pace that also emphasized fuel economy.
Certain to provide an eventful end to the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series (as well as the final race with IZOD as the title sponsor), the 250-lap MAVTV 500 is set to receive a green flag at 6:10 PM local time in California (9:10 PM eastern time).
1. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 220.7752. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 219.677
3. (2) AJ Allmendinger, Dallara-Chevy, 218.894
4. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 218.513
5. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 217.986
6. (16) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 217.979
7. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 217.979
8. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 217.958
9. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 217.932
10. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 217.871
11. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 217.798
12. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 217.566
13. (10) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 217.419
14. (5) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Chevy, 217.050
15. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 216.898
16. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 216.447
17. (4) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 216.213
18. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 216.106
19. (98) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 215.967
20. (55) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 215.207
21. (78) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 214.679
22. (6) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 213.262
23. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, no speed
24. (18) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, no speed
25. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, no speed