Hot & Slick: Championship fights to be played out in Fontana

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For the seventh consecutive season, the IZOD IndyCar Series Driver Championship will be decided at the last race of the season. So, here we are in Fontana, California, home to dry heat, to see which of the two “contendas” will successfully duke it out for the Astor Cup and the IndyCar Series championship. For those who attended and covered the event on Friday, it was a matter of keeping cool, as temperatures have soared into the hundreds of degrees outside and on the track. While I’m writing this in the Media Center, it’s over 80 degrees with the air conditioner on. As many series including this one start winding down, perhaps we should review and discuss what to look for at tomorrow’s championship races:

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

• Indy Lights will go out at 3:00 PM on Saturday and run 50 laps around Auto Club Speedway. Neither championship contender will be in the front row. The field looks to be a relatively healthy (for Indy Lights) 14 cars. We can expect some passing and a champion who comes from either France or Argentina. The race will take an hour or less.

• In the second and featured match, 26 IndyCars will compete in a 500 mile race of 250 laps. This is the second 500 mile race of the year and the first one is…where was that? Oh, right, the other 500 mile race is Indy, or more properly, the Indianapolis 500!

• According to Ryan Briscoe, the track is “hot and slick”. He’s the one who said it, I am merely reporting it.

• As with Indy Lights, neither championship contender will start on the front row. Both Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay can start no better than 10th place due to doing “unapproved engine changes”. This is not as big a deal as it would be if this were a road or street course. But, it does seem to be a particularly ridiculous rule because it could potentially impact the championship.

• When I talked to Ryan Hunter-Reay, he said, “I want to win the championship more than anything”. I believe him. He also said he hates Will Power – this was prodded by a question from another reporter. I don’t believe him.

(speedway) very unpredictable, and it’s hard to predict what will happen

Will Power

• When I talked to Will Power, he seemed more focus on the race than the championship. He commented that this Speedway seems to be “very unpredictable, and it’s hard to predict what will happen”. I believe him. He wants to win the championship for sure, but focuses on each race rather than points. I kind of believe him about that. He says he hates Ryan Hunter-Reay. I believe him. Except with one caveat which is, the hate ends when they are off track.

• For those who are interested, Auto Club Speedway is the largest sports venue in Southern California, encompassing 565 acres. For comparison, Dodger Stadium is 300 acres and Disneyland and California Adventure are 300 acres.

• The green flag will wave at about 5:50 PM (PST) tomorrow. For those attending the race, I recommend reverse layering. You will need hot weather clothes when you get here, and then you will need to slowly add layers of clothing as the speedway cools down.

IndyCar action on Auto Club Speedway
IndyCar action on Auto Club Speedway

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

• The drivers tell me that the most exciting racing will happen after the sun sets behind the grandstands. According to Ryan Briscoe, “when we were running on Wednesday night, I never saw so many different racing lines.

It will be a long day tomorrow, but at the end, the Astor Cup, commissioned by Vincent Astor in 1915 will once again be awarded at a race track, and we will have two new racing champions, and perhaps two race winners. The drama is bound to be epic, so either come to the Speedway, or tune in to NBC Sports Network at 4:30 PM Pacific Time and enjoy the last 5 hours of live racing broadcasts this year for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Story by: Lisa May Davidson

Indy Lights during practice
Indy Lights during practice

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

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About this article
Series INDYCAR
Article type Special feature
Tags briscoe, chevrolet, firestone, fontana, honda, hunter-reay, indycar, indylights, indy lights, izod, power