The penultimate race of a very open and exciting season is here. Sadly the formbook says it is the most boring track on the current IndyCar schedule. Prospects are for very little overtaking and a fuel-saving, strategy-based race. At a time when IndyCar is making progress in recovering from the IRL/CART split and seeing the shoots of recovery, it is the exact opposite of what the sport needs and what fans are looking for. But before you switch off and make plans for Sunday, read on.
Will Power’s commanding performance in Milwaukee, coupled with his recent dominance of the Sonoma event, does not necessarily bode well. A different use of the formbook does however give cause for optimism. On road and street courses Power has typically been peerless but not this season. Of the eleven road/street courses this season, Power has only won twice. Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, Dixon, Bourdais, Conway, Pagenaud and Huertas have all beaten the Australian this season. With RHR and Pagenaud out of realistic contention for the title, both can throw caution to the wind. Equally Helio needs to win big to cut the points deficit and Dixon will want to finish the season strong to lay the ground work for a title challenge in 2015.
Sparks could fly throughout the field in fact as drivers attempt to put themselves in the shop window/save their drivers/keep or attract sponsors (delete as applicable). Whilst the chat about James Hinchliffe’s seat at Andretti Autosport has moved from ‘replacement’ to ‘running alongside’ Pagenaud, he desperately needs to win before season end. Throughout 2014 there have been flashes that Hinch can be top drawer but he needs to repay the faith that has been (may be) shown. Graham Rahal has a huge sponsorship void to fill for 2015. The timing of the National Guard announcement looked to have caught RLL off guard, so every opportunity to perform well will likely be critical.
Here’s to hoping the form book is only right about some things in California this weekend.