Allow us to begin with a mea culpa, as congratulations are in order for Will Power. He didn’t blow the finale as we predicted, but rather triumphed to win the IndyCar Championship in fine fashion. He did not melt down, embarrass himself or his homeland of Australia, or go berserk – much less stark raving lunatic mad – on live television as we envisaged. He performed brilliantly and proved us utterly wrong. Good on you, mate. Finally, we assure all our readers once and for all he’s perfectly sane.
Photo from foxsports.com.au
IndyCar’s finale Saturday night delivered an action packed and thrilling conclusion to a compact 2014 campaign. Seems like it just began at St. Pete the other weekend, doesn’t it? The race entertained the sparse looking crowd, settled the championship and provided the eleventh different winner in eighteen races, which ties the record. Thankfully after Aleshin’s terrible crash in Friday night’s practice it remained safe throughout with only a single caution brought out late by Hunter-Reay’s spin, and he deftly managed to avoid the wall and competitors.
Photo from ap.org
The pre-race was a drawn out affair lasting over an hour and recapping the entire season, including each race winner, interviews with three quarters of the field and a full points rundown. It was disappointing there was no Miller grid run (our favorite!) in all that programming and despite its length the pre race show still seemed somehow rushed. There was the usual comic relief during the build up when viewers couldn’t hear the command to start engines due to a dead mic. Happily they were fired anyway and we could hear the two-seater’s mic. By the way that’s the last two races in a row where we’ve heard from the contest winner, which surely must be a record.
When the green flag finally flew on the rows of three the action proved intense with three and four wide passing through the corners. There was near constant battling at speeds over 215 mph throughout the field most of the night. The 500 miler was another exceptionally clean race as it seemed like the Russian’s destructive accident twenty four hours earlier had put the fear of God into the drivers. Long stints of green flag racing ruled and other than Huertas’s very unusual retirement due to illness for Coyne (when’s the last time you remember that occurring? we’re currently investigating the matter) neither engine reliability nor debris on track became an issue as some had feared. In fact every other car besides Coyne’s finished the lengthy race.
Photo from racing.ap.org
Starting second to last and remaining there initially, Power steadily advanced through the field and even led the race at one point. He finished ninth which was enough for the championship as Helio led too, but then drew a costly penalty for a rules violation. Committing an uncharacteristic mistake, he swerved late off the track entering pit lane which is a no no. After being penalized – they actually did penalize Team Penske – Helio’s race was effectively over as he struggled to stay in contact with the leaders and finished 15th.
Photo from usatoday.com
Unfortunately Pags lost a teammate the night before and wasn’t a factor in the championship battle or race. Going seven laps down after experiencing early problems the Frenchman never recovered. Sam Schmidt did give a positive update on Aleshin’s health during the broadcast and mentioned looking forward to having him back in the car again next year, both good signs.
Photo from usatoday.com
Power shed tears of joy after finishing the race and winning his first championship after three straight years as runner up. “I can’t believe I won it,” he said emotionally afterward. We can’t believe it either, Will, we really can’t. At the front Tony Kanaan finally broke through taking his first win of the year and with his new team Target, which celebrated three late victories after a rather slow start in its 25th anniversary year.
TK’s teammate Dixie rallied to second and remarkably finished third in points with a late race and season surge. Carpenter ran solidly on track despite a pit lane speed violation advancing to finish third in his swansong effort with ECR before the merger. His future teammate Josef Newgarden started second but quickly dropped back, finishing a disappointing tenth to end a somewhat frustrating year for the young driver. Juan Montoya “you know what I mean?” capped off a strong comeback to the IndyCar series with a fourth place result while Hinch and Sato both performed well to round out the top six.
Photo from sfhracing.com
Obviously we absolutely adore Auto Club Speedway and the exciting racing IndyCars routinely display there. SoCal saw a thrilling 500 mile extravaganza as advertised and we’re looking forward to next year’s race already. In the meantime IndyCar fans all must endure a long off season with Will Power as Champion, our newly crowned IndyCar King. We fear it’s going to be an extremely down under reign.
Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au