It’s the finale and we have a championship title that won’t be decided, once more, until the very last lap of the season. On paper it looks tremendous for IndyCar and the series’ continued recovery. Yet since Will Power’s domination of Milwaukee and a bizarre race in Sonoma we have been left with something of an anti-climax. Which is a real shame for one of the most competitive IndyCar seasons in recent memory. However whilst we do not have multiple drivers separated by only a few points, there is still potential for a great race and title decider.
Simon Pagenaud and the SPM team have run out of steam and experience in the final miles, leaving a straight Penske shootout. The manner in which the wheels have come off Helio Castroneves’ title challenge leave you wondering if he will ever secure a championship. With double-points on offer Helio can still do it – a win and Power outside the top 8 is the target. In any other race, you would consider the chances of Power finishing that low unlikely but given his propensity to fall at the final hurdle, nothing is certain. Which gives hope for Pagenaud also – despite his testing crash – even though he requires maximum points, Power 19th or lower and Helio off the podium.
Undoubtedly Power has the title to lose and the easiest route to victory lane. Finish in the top 8 and there is nothing Castroneves or Pagenaud can do. But we’ve seen this before where nothing more than a measured approach is required. An ability to take that perspective and retain that focus seemed to be easy for the likes of Franchitti and Dixon. Power conversely seems to be either all in or all out. This weekend he needs to prove he can be clinical in closing out a season and escape the tag of the perennial nearly man.
With that in mind there are still 19 others drivers intent upon messing up the championship party. Worryingly for the title protagonists, quite a few are very capable of succeeding.
Scott Dixon commented recently that off-season changes at Ganassi damaged the team in 2014. They have not been the title-winning machine of old but that has started to change recently. Both Dixon and Tony Kanaan – well overdue, as always, a win – will be targeting a dominant performance to spring in to 2015 with. Equally dangerous will be Ryan Hunter-Reay (with nothing to lose now), Hinchcliffe and Andretti (both with a lot to prove) and Ed Carpenter who can never be discounted on super speedways. Look out also for Juan Pablo Montoya who has been a revelation this season and will certainly figure for the championship in 2015.
While on the one hand it could be a fairly mundane season finale, there is still plenty of scope for fireworks.
To see how the various championship points permutations shake out, check out this guide.