Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Numbers Behind Winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship


Photo Credit: Chris Owens

It is unfortunate to note the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series is ending so early. After 17 races, the open wheel series season wraps with a final race on a two-mile oval in California. The last chance for a team to score a victory in the 2014 tour, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway provide the last stand to claim the drivers’ championship for the Verizon IndyCar Championship.

In the best contention for the 2014 crown is a pair of Team Penske drivers who both have a case for being owed a championship. Will Power finished in the runner-up spot in the IndyCar Series championship three times in a row between 2010 and 2012. In second heading into California is Brazil’s Helio Castroneves. Having won the Indianapolis 500 three times, Castroneves has never won a championship in a major American open wheel racing series. Finishing second in the 1997 Indy Lights Series to Tony Kanaan, 13 full seasons in the IndyCar Series have seen him end the season in second three times. Both Power and Castoneves would like to put a cherry on top of career sundae with a Verizon IndyCar championship trophy.


Photo Credit: Richard Dowdy

Points Heading into MAVTV 500

Will Power: 626
Helio Castroneves: 575
Simon Pagenaud: 545
Ryan Hunter-Reay: 534


Operating on a double point system with the MAVTV 500 being part of the 2014 IndyCar Triple Crown, the race opens an otherwise sealed championship providing contenders a chance to unseat Will Power (or Power a chance to unseat himself). Mathematically, the championship is still a four-driver fight prior to the green flag dropping. However, 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will be eliminated from contention at the start of the race. 92 points back from Power ahead of the 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway, 22 cars starting the MAVTV 500 will result in a minimum of 16 points being scored.

With only Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud in contention for the 2014 championship, 200 laps around the fast Auto Club Speedway in California is a rare occasion to see a three-way title fight at the IndyCar finale. Heading into to the final race of the season, Power held a 51-point lead over his Team Penske teammate. An outside shot for the 2014 championship, Simon Pagenaud driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is 81 points from the lead. In qualifying for Saturday night’s race, Helio Castroneves captured an important point by taking the pole position for the MAVTV 500. The gain draws the Brazilian to 50 points of teammate Will Power.


Championship Scenarios:


Castroneves Wins Race and Will Power Finishes 7th while also Leading Lap

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

Will Power: 679
Helio Castroneves: 679
Simon Pagenaud: ?


With a 50-point lead, Will Power only needs to gather 53 additional points in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series to guarantee a championship. With the 52 points gained with the seventh place run, leading a lap will grant Power the one additional point solidifying the championship for the Australian. Even if the #3 car wins the race and leads the most laps, Castroneves can only add 103 points. This scenario will end in a points tie between the Team Penske entrants. With three wins to a potential two, Will Power would prevail for 2014.

In 500-mile races this season, Helio Castroneves holds the best average finish with runner-up spots at Indianapolis as well as Pocono. Will Power’s finishing average in the same two races for 2014 was ninth. This scenario has a close statistical possibility.


Power Finishes 22nd and Castroneves Finishes 4th While Leading Most Laps

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Helio Castroneves: 643
Will Power: 642
Simon Pagenaud: ?


Since the minimum amount of points available within the 22-car for the MAVTV 500 is 16, Will Power will end the 2014 season with a points total of at least 642 points. Castroneves would need to gain more than 66 points in the race to steal the title from Power. In this scenario, the Castroneves came take the championship mathematically by finishing in the top three spots without leading a lap. However, Helio Castroneves could also be crowned 2014 Verizon IndyCar champion if he finishes fourth withstanding he will gain three additional points leading the most laps at Auto Club Speedway at the end of 500 miles.


Pagenaud Wins Race, Power takes 21st and Castroneves finishes 4th

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Simon Pagenaud: 646
Will Power: 644
Helio Castroneves: 640


Even if Power finishes 22nd, the Simon Pagenaud would have to take victory at Auto Club Speedway in the #77 car in order to take the 2014 championship with misfortune required for Will Power. Power would need to finish in the bottom two positions of the race for Pagenaud‘s championship dreams to be realized. Currently 31 points behind Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud would need the second Team Penske title contender to place fourth or lower in the final results. Unfortunately for Pagenaud, his already long-shot hopes for the 2014 title is not helped by so-so runs in the previous two 500-mile oval races this season.

Please Note: The points would account for the unlikelihood Helio Castroneves will not lead a lap while starting on the pole for Saturday night’s MAVTV 500.


Of course, these three championship scenarios would not matter if Will Power would be positioned ahead of both Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud at the end of the race. While Power won last year’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, earning a 21st place starting spot in Friday’s qualifying could mean the points will at least be closer following Saturday night’s race on the two-mile speedway.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Driver Kevin Ward Jr Dies After Bodily Impact from Car Driven by Tony Stewart

There has never been any illusions that auto racing can be a dangerous sport. Over the years, helmets, roll bars and most recently SAFER barriers detail just a few products engineered to reduce injury and death to those involved in motorsports. At the end, with all the technology invested into race cars, drivers remain the key to providing a safe atmosphere. Late Saturday night on a New York dirt track, one young sprint car driver has lost his life by an action that can only properly described at this as a tragic lapse of competitors assuring safety.

The incident took place during an Empire Super Sprints (ESS) race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York. Making a special appearance at the event was NASCAR Sprint Cup three-time champion and USAC title winner Tony Stewart. Stewart has been renowned for his numerous appearance at short tracks across the United States. Racing regular competitor Kevin Ward Jr.'s on track, Stewart's #14 car collided with the #13 machine of Ward. The result from their interaction had Ward's car getting wrecked. With the sprint car race under caution, the driver decided to passionately express his displeasure at Stewart. An action customary at short track and even part of major auto racing, Ward stepped away from his wrecked #13 car and proceeded closer to lower part of the race track where running sprint cars were crossing him. With Stewart just above the lower line of the dirt oval, the sprint car slammed into Kevin Ward Jr. sending the driver violently to the ground. With no signs of movement, safety officials were quick to provide medical assistance to Ward. Unfortunately, early Sunday morning, the Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero announced to local media outlets that the driver has been confirmed dead.

According to the driver bio on his racing website, Kevin Ward Jr. was about 20 years old with a passion and talent for sprint car racing. Progressing through the ladder of sprint car racing as a two-time champion in micro sprints, he entered the ESS series in 2012 and was bestowed with rookie of the year honours. Since debuting in the series, Ward won four-time ESS feature races on route to fourth place in the 2013 championship. Before the event at Canandaigua, he was in seventh place in the 2014 drivers' standings.

With the passing of Kevin Ward Jr. under such violent circumstances of a person being struck on-foot by a race car, a investigation has been immediately launched by police. Several reports by witnesses is supporting a notion that Tony Stewart allegedly hit Ward intentionally based on the speed and positioning of his car. Social media buzz based on videos of the crash has been strongly against the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver/team owner. Stewart has been cooperating with the police investigation following the collision and there has been no charges as of Sunday morning relating to the incident. There has also been no news relating to the #14 Chevrolet Tony Stewart regularly rides in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Regardless to fault, the passing of Kevin Ward Jr. serves as a sad end to a young life that accomplished so much and was full of promise.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

XSL Speed Reporter Exclusive Interview: F4 Italian Championship Driver Lance Stroll

Photo Credit: ACI Sport S.p.A.

Right now, a hordes of 15 year-olds scramble for some resolution to potential boredom occurring through the second half of summer vacation. Some may be looking forward to a family trip or may have taken on a summer job to make a productive use of time. This year, Canadian auto racing prospect Lance Stroll is taking a unique tour of Italy at the wheel of single-seat, open-wheel race car.

Even before he is old enough to possess a Canadian driver’s license, Lance Stroll has been putting miles on a turbocharged Fiat Abarth-powered race car. Competing in the inaugural season of the F4 Italian Championship, the Montreal-born prospect graduated from competition karting where he won in Canada as well as the United States showing favourably in world tournaments. Those performances garnered the attention of the Ferrari Driver Academy. Over a short time period, the driver development has developed Formula 1 drivers Sergio Perez and Jules Bianchi. The only North American native part of the 2014 five-driver squad, the accomplishment is nothing less than phenomenal.

Not only is Lance Stroll racing in the 2014 F4 Italian Championship, he has bested some of the world’s brightest new hopes for open wheel greatness. Driving the #18 car for the Prema Power Team, the 15-year-old Canadian has won four races overall and leads in the drivers’ standings after nine races completed. Stroll has won on the circuit of Imola as well as the Mugello Circuit (a favourite test track among Formula 1 drivers and teams). Along with Bruno Spengler and Robert Wickens in the DTM series, Lance Stroll is presently another driver carrying the Canadian maple leaf flag racing in Europe.

As a special privilege to XSL Speed Reporter ahead of an upcoming round in Magione, the Canadian Ferrari Driver Academy member answered some questions in helping us get to know more about him and his career.

Photo Credit: ACI Sport S.p.A.

The list of drivers competing so far in the F4 Italian Championship has given the series a United Nations-style appearance. Do you find it special to contend on a world stage at a young age?

Yes, I do. At the same time, though, the level is also quite low since all the drivers are all coming out of karting. But I’m very happy to be part of the championship and I’m looking forward to the next races.


Can you describe the sensation of racing your F4 Car?

There’s not too much excitement in the car since it’s very low power and low aerodynamics but it’s still a great sensation just driving a car instead of a go-kart so I love it and I can’t wait for the next few steps coming up and going to the bigger categories.

You're fifteen years old and far away from home as you are competing in F4 Italian Championship. Obviously your family has been supportive with your racing activities but you're quite a ways from home. Can you describe your family relationship as you pursue your passion?

The truth is I am far away from home but at the same time, I’m here at Ferrari and I feel very much at home. My family are very supportive with me with the racing. I have a sister and she came as well from Canada to Europe so there’s a lot of support from everyone and they just wish me the best and I’m very thankful.


Photo Credit: ACI Sport S.p.A.

What driver(s) have most inspired you as a race car driver?

My favourite driver in Formula 1 is Fernando Alonso. I think with the car the way it is this year, Ferrari obviously is not the strongest in the field and he’s done some incredible things with the package he has so he’s definitely my favourite professional driver.


Being part of the Ferrari Driver Academy you must be receiving some specialized training in honing your development. Could you please provide an understanding to what is provided through your membership. Also, what resources have been made available to you that has helped you so far?

I think with Ferrari, we do a lot of fitness training and simulation training as well as the mental training, which are the three main factors that we work most on and I think what Ferrari helps very much with is they know the stepping stones it takes to get to the highest level of racing so you learn so much from the people who work here with the Driver Academy and it’s like nowhere else you could be so I’m extremely happy to be working with these people. They’ve taught me so much in the last years and again, I’m looking forward to the future and I’m ready to learn a lot more.


Photo Credit: ACI Sport S.p.A.

During the 1990s, a slew of Canadian drivers (Jacques Villeneuve, Greg Moore and Alex Tagliani to name a few) were assisted through the Players Driver Development Program similar to the Ferrari Driver Academy. Do you wish a similar program existed in Canada?

Yes and no. There are times when I miss home for sure, but as well, I think part of the enjoyment is coming here and being with the team at Ferrari. I think it wouldn’t be the same if it were at home. That’s part of the fun, coming to Italy and doing something new, being with the Scuderia Ferrari team, so yes and no I’d have to say on that question. Like I said earlier, there are days where I miss home but as well, I think it’s a great new adventure to come to Italy and work with one of the greatest Formula 1 teams in the world.


Clearly you would consider Formula 1 as an ultimate goal. What do you think of the new Formula 1 cars and rules for 2014?

I think it’s interesting but at the same point, I don’t agree with the ways of saving tyres and fuel and many factors that are in Formula 1 today. I think it’s exciting for the people. I don’t love the sound myself. I think it used to sound better with the normally-aspirated engine. It’s a new Formula 1 but if you ask me which one I prefer, I definitely think the old style of Formula 1 was more pure racing.

Of any production Ferrari from past to present, which one would you most want?

One of my favourite Ferraris is the P4. I think it’s an unbelievable car. It’s the car I love most in the world so that’s definitely it.

Late Breaking News: At this weekend's F4 Italian Championship round in Magione, Lance Stroll won the opening race. Race 2 ended early for the Canadian with contact between Prema Power Team teammate Brandon Maisano in the third lap. Race 3 ended with Stroll taking the runner-up position but top in his class concluding with a 232-point total in the championship standings.