Thursday, June 25, 2015

Track Walk: Fontana 2015

IndyCar returns to sunny Southern California
After a week off, IndyCar is back in action as the eleventh round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The MAVTV 500 is the second leg of the IndyCar Triple Crown. Juan Pablo Montoya enters as the championship leader and having won the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Indianapolis 500 make in May. This will be the 14th IndyCar race to take place at Fontana and first to take place in the month of June. This could be the final IndyCar race at Fontana.

Time: Coverage begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday June 26th. Green flag at 4:36 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett (Townsend Bell is racing at Watkins Glen) and Paul Tracy are in the booth with Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Kelli Stavast and Robin Miller working the pit lane.

Championship Picture
Juan Pablo Montoya has 374 points and holds a 27 points lead over Will Power. Montoya is one of three drivers with two victories this season. The Australian Power has won five pole positions including the last two. Scott Dixon is 45 points behind Montoya and won the most recent oval race at Texas. Dixon also won pole position for the Indianapolis 500 earlier this season. Hélio Castroneves makes it three Penske drivers in the top four of the championship as he sits 52 points behind Montoya. Graham Rahal is the top Honda driver, fifth in the standings with 283 points.

Sébastien Bourdais is sixth in the championship, nine points behind his former Newman-Haas teammate and 100 points behind Montoya. Marco Andretti trails the Frenchman by two points while the most recent winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Josef Newgarden is eighth on 268 points.  Tony Kanaan won last year at Fontana and returns with himself ninth in the championship on 244 points. Simon Pagenaud rounds out the top ten, 142 points back of his Penske teammate who is leading the championship.

Charlie Kimball is eight points outside the top ten in the championship. Carlos Muñoz is a further eight points behind Kimball. Takuma Sato is thirteenth with an even 200 points. Ryan Hunter-Reay is six points behind Sato. Gabby Chaves founds out the top fifteen with 168 points. James Jakes is four points behind Chaves.

Driver Changes
There are four driver changes heading to Fontana.

Ed Carpenter steps into the #20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Carpenter has finished on the podium in the last three Fontana races having won in 2012, finished second in 2013 and finished third last year. Carpenter has had two retirements in his two starts this season. Luca Filippi finished second in the #20 at Toronto, giving CFH Racing their first 1-2 finish.

Ryan Briscoe will be back behind the wheel of the #5 Arrow Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Briscoe will be making his third start of 2015. He finished 12th in the Indianapolis 500 from 33rd on the grid and finished 8th at Texas from 19th. The Australian will be making his third start at Fontana. He finished 17th in 2012 and seventh in 2014. Conor Daly drove the car at Toronto and finished 12th.

Sage Karam is back in the #8 Big Machine Records Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Karam has made seven starts this season and has finished 12th in his last two starts. This will be Karam's first career start at Fontana. His lone Fontana appearance in Indy Lights came in 2013 where he finished 3rd, good enough for him to clinch the title. Sebastián Saavedra finished 16th at Toronto in the #8.

Pippa Mann will make her third start of 2015 as she will replace Rodolfo González in the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Mann finished 22nd at Indianapolis and 17th at Texas. This will be her second start at Fontana. She finished 25th in 2013.

Fast Facts
Juan Pablo Montoya has won four of nine 500-mile IndyCar races he has started.

Al Unser is the only drive to win the IndyCar Triple Crown having done it in 1978. That same year, Affirmed won the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. On June 6th, American Pharoah became the first horse since Affirmed to win the Triple Crown.

Chevrolet has won the last 16 pole positions dating back to last year. In that time frame, three races had the starting grid set by owners' points. The last Honda pole position came for Houston 1 where Simon Pagenaud won his first career pole position.

This will be the eight IndyCar race to take place on June 27th. The most recent race to take place on June 27th was in 2009 at Richmond and Scott Dixon won that race. That has been the most recent IndyCar race at Richmond.

Jimmy Vasser, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Adrián Fernandez each have two race victories at Fontana. Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Tony Kanaan are the only active drivers with victories at Fontana.

Chevrolet has won the last three Fontana races and five of the last eight. Honda has three victories at Fontana. Ford also has three victories at Fontana. Mercedes and Toyota each have one Fontana victory.

Only two of the previous 13 Fontana races have been won from pole position. Dario Franchitti (2005) and Will Power (2012) are the two drivers to accomplish that.

Only once has a Fontana winner started outside the top ten. Adrián Fernandez won from 13th in 1999.

Chevrolet has swept the top four positions in the last two Fontana races.

The least amount of lead changes in a Fontana race is 13, which occurred in the inaugural Fontana race in 1997, won by Mark Blundell. The average amount of lead changes in Fontana races is 30.769.

This will be the third IndyCar race of 2015 in which Steve Matchett will be a color commentator. Matchett was in the booth at Barber and Toronto. Josef Newgarden won both of those races.

Possible Milestones:
Should Will Power take the green flag, he will make his 150 IndyCar races.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 164 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs to lead 162 laps to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 65 laps to reach the 1,500 laps led club.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 45 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

Ed Carpenter needs to lead 97 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 21 laps to reach the 300 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 24 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 5 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Josef Newgarden needs to lead 3 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Hélio Castroneves is one second place finish away from passing Bobby Rahal for second all-time in second place finishes. Rahal and Castroneves are tied with 37 runner-up finishes.

Dan Wheldon would have turned 37 years old on Monday. Can you name the drivers who finished runner-up to Dan Wheldon in his 16 IndyCar victories?

Juan Pablo Montoya keeps his Triple Crown hopes alive and wins his fifth 500-mile race. Less than three Honda cars qualify in the top ten. One Honda will finish in the top five. There will be at least 22 lead changes. At least one driver will lead their first laps of the season during a pit stop cycle. At least one driver will either gain two positions in the championship standings or lose two positions in the championship standings after this race. Sleeper: Takuma Sato.