You know, in this life, it is easy to be critical after the fact. The MAVTv 500 IZOD IndyCar Series season finale held at Auto Club Speedway, upon review, had its share of miscues and confusing statements ... probably way too many to mention in one posting but here are a couple of highlights.
The first one was a statement made by IndyCar's only team owner, driver, and first champion of the MAVTv 500 (2012) Ed Carpenter - No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, after the MAVTv 500 race last year which provided a key motivation to this year's MAVTv 500 champion, Will Power - No. 12 Verizon/Penske Racing Chevrolet.
This excerpted and edited from Auto Racing Daily -
Q - I heard you mention on television that you had a little extra incentive today to want to win this, make a point of some sort.
WILL POWER: The incentive? The incentive was, Ed Carpenter said that Will Power did exactly what everyone expected him to do at the last race last year. I thought that was just such motivation for me to beat him and win at this track and just be good at ovals. I went about it. I thought I’m going to beat Ed. Ed, I really respect him. A very good, fast, clean oval racer. Always good to race. I don’t dislike him, but I told him, I said, Man, your comment last year gave me a lot of motivation. It’s true.
So, yes, that’s right. I like Ed. He’s very good. He’s quick. But that comment definitely got to me in a good way.
Second, can we say that 'The Captain' has called better races for Helio Castroneves? Helio Castroneves - No. 3 Auto Club of America/Penske Racing Chevrolet, had set himself up to win. He was mentally prepared, in qualifications he secured the P2 position between Pole winner Will Power and single race team-mate P3 A.J. Allmendinger leaving Scott Dixon further down in the field at P7 with an engine change for both Scott and Helio, a 10 spot penalty was assessed. (Castroneves P12 / Dixon P17).
By Lap 5 Helio was running in the top five where he remained for the most of the race - even leading several times. Then on Lap 210 a YELLOW Flag flew due to Alex Tagliani - No. 10 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, spinning off of Turn 2 which brought a call over the radio to Helio from Roger Penske to PIT. On Lap 212, Helio Castroneves gives up his position in the field as he enters the pits when they were still classified as closed.
Helio found himself battling for the lead again with Charlie Kimball - No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, where Helio crowded Charlie running for the lead and damaged the front wing on his No. 3 DW12. On Lap 226 Helio Castroneves replaced his nosecone and was never able to recapture his position in the field finishing one position behind P5 Scott Dixon - No. 9 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
In a post MAVTv 500 season championship press conference, Scott Dixon stated that his car was a 7th or 8th fastest car in the field at best. Castroneves is left as Power was left the previous three years with a 'should'a, could'a, would'a ending to a strong season.
Judging by the achievement of season championships - Scott Dixon's being the 10th since 1996, we need to be giving a higher military title to Chip Ganassi ... like 'The Colonel, Chip' or 'The General, Ganassi' because Penske Racing's 5 season championships has to take a back seat to this level of success. It is pretty funny to listen to Target Chip Ganassi's brain trust of Mike Hull and Chip Ganassi talk during the post MAVTv 500 season championship press conference and pay homage to Penske Racing as the best team in present day IndyCar. Let's be clear ... Target Chip Ganassi Racing is the best team in present day IndyCar based solely on performance.
Lastly, one has to take issue with a statement made by Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Managing Director, Mike Hull about choosing the Honda engine for their DW12 package and the fact that for 2014, the team has chosen to take a different direction.
Scott Dixon's car was developing heat and was having trouble getting rid of this problem which thretened to end Scott's run to capture his third championship in ten years (2003, 2008, and 2013). On Lap 299 Dixon came into the pits and stayed a little extra time to clear the radiators of debris. The engine ran hot the balance of the race.
Mike Hull was asked about how this effected their race, Hull stated (starting at 1:14 of the above linked audio file), "I have to say, as hot as the engine got, Honda did what we wanted them to do what they wanted to do ... and that was to build an engine that didn't break under severe conditions" ... which all begs the question asked later to Chip Ganassi by Motor Press Guild and LMR Marketing Communications' Larry Mason on why the jump to Chevrolet next year? Chip's answer leaves one to wonder if there is something more than, "It was a business decision ...", due to the number of season championships (since 1996 - 9 Honda-powered/1 Toyota-powered) the team was able to earn with the Honda engine partnership.
Hat's off to New Zealander Scott Dixon on his third, very well earned, IndyCar Series season championship and the fact this earned honor now sits with the winningest-active driver in the series with 33 wins, and that he remains the longest tenured driver in the Target Chip Ganassi stable since joining the team mid-way through the 2002 CART season.
One additionally wonders if the Chevrolet way (as opposed to the Japanese way) will be compatible with both TCGR and Scott Dixon ... or if the door is now open for Andretti Autosport to outlast and out race the rest of the field with their new Honda-powered - build an engine that didn't break under severe conditions - Dallara DW12s.
... notes from The EDJE