Will Power, Penske, Indianapolis, 2014

Power’s fourth IndyCar title chance is his best yet

IndyCarPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Will Power, Penske, Indianapolis, 2014For the fourth time in the last five years, Will Power heads into the final round of the IndyCar series this weekend with a chance to capture the championship.

He’s finished runner-up on all three occasions so far. But he approaches Saturday’s race with a strong lead in the points, making this his best chance yet to secure the title which was repeatedly eluded him.

Indeed if this was last season, Power’s 51-point lead over Penske team mate Helio Castroneves would mean he had the title virtually locked up. But as this weekend’s finale at Fontana is a 500-mile race it offers double points, with a maximum haul of 104 available.

That means Castroneves is very much in the running, and three other drivers are mathematically in contention: Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon. Realistically, as anyone who places 33rd or higher takes at least ten points, the latter two are almost certain to drop out of contention as soon as Power starts the race.

But Power knows all to well how quickly fortune can turn against a driver in a championship showdown. Two years ago he went to Fontana 17 points ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, but crashed while overtaking his rival, and it was Andretti driver who scooped the championship.

Helio Castroneves, Penske, Barber Motorsport Park, 2014The brutally high speeds at the Auto Club Speedway – where IndyCars have in the past hit mind-bending average lap speeds in excess of 389kph (242mph) – make it a venue where drivers can take nothing for granted. Last year only nine cars were still running at the chequered flag, five of them on the lead lap.

But significantly, they were led by Power, who has shaken off the tag of being a driver who could dominate on IndyCar’s road and street courses, but never seemed entirely comfortable on an oval. Perhaps it helped that he went into last year’s race without the pressure of a championship contest – not a situation he will enjoy this year, even if he does hold a strong points advantage.

Castroneves’ oval credentials are not in doubt – he is a three-times winner of the Indianapolis 500. But while many rate victory in that great race above winning the IndyCar championship, it remains an accolade which has eluded him despite spending a decade and a half with a top team like Penske.

He has won just once this year, in Detroit, but consistent points-scoring had him in the lead of the championship as recently as three races ago. But he’s been out of the top ten in the last four, which has handed the initiative to Power.

Simon Pagenaud, IndyCar, Sam Schmidt, Pocono, 2014Meanwhile Simon Pagenaud continues to impress with Sam Schmidt’s smaller team. Fifth as a rookie in 2012 and third last year, Pagenaud has repeatedly highlighted his credentials as a driver who deserves the backing of one of IndyCar’s top outfits. But he goes into the final race as a clear outsider for the title, and has never so much as led on an oval never mind won.

This weekend’s race rounds of an earlier than usual end to the IndyCar series, as its management strive to enhance the profile of the series by reducing the time between races. It should mark something of a watershed as well, as the intention is it will round off the last season with identical-spec cars, which has been the case since Panoz cars dropped out of use eight years ago.

Next year’s race at St Petersburg in March is supposed to see the overdue introduction of aero kits, which will add variety and new development opportunities to the Dallara DW12 racer in its fourth year of service.

Whether that comes at the expense of the close races and championship IndyCar has come to take for granted remains to be seen. Saturday’s crucial race will be the ninth year in a row the title has been decided at the last race.

2014 IndyCar Fontana 500 on F1 Fanatic Live

As usual we will be following the final IndyCar race as it happens on F1 Fanatic Live. For those of you in the UK that means an early alarm call – the race coverage starts at 2:30am BST on Sunday.

UK television coverage is on ESPN who are showing the race live, then repeated it at 10:30am.

2014 IndyCar Points Standings

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2014indycardrivercolours.csv

Driver StP Lon Ala IGP Ind De1 De2 Tex Ho1 Ho2 Poc Iow To1 To2 Mid Mil Son
Will Power 53 93 125 149 234 285 326 370 386 405 446 462 484 520 548 602 626
Helio Castroneves 36 55 66 102 220 254 307 331 353 366 446 471 512 533 544 563 575
Simon Pagenaud 30 60 92 143 211 219 247 279 295 346 402 421 454 462 484 510 545
Ryan Hunter-Reay 40 54 107 148 274 288 299 310 336 364 388 439 448 464 485 494 534
Scott Dixon 32 51 87 102 132 152 184 214 225 237 297 331 361 387 440 472 523
Juan Pablo Montoya 15 47 56 70 152 170 187 223 263 289 391 405 417 428 447 488 519
Tony Kanaan 28 40 62 82 104 139 161 189 206 226 267 305 340 380 389 425 443
Sebastien Bourdais 17 33 48 81 143 160 170 180 212 242 271 282 336 358 400 418 437
Carlos Munoz 13 48 55 61 160 186 210 227 262 270 340 358 371 384 416 424 435
Marco Andretti 8 32 73 89 192 213 227 235 259 281 325 337 351 375 383 400 424

Over to you

Is this finally going to be Will Power’s year? Who do you think deserves the title most? Have your say in the comments.

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