LIVE BLOG: Fontana, Saturday

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on October 19, 2013 2:55 pm
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Welcome to More Front Wing’s live blog from race day at the IZOD IndyCar Series season finale weekend at Auto Club Speedway! MFW Co-editors Paul Dalbey and Steph Wallcraft are on site providing live updates from trackside all weekend long. Be sure to check back on this page frequently as it will be updated constantly throughout the day. The most recent updates will be at the top, so if this is your first visit then please start at the bottom and work your way up. Feedback is always welcome — please leave a comment on this page or email us at feedback@morefrontwing.com!

Click here to access More Front Wing’s Friday live blog from the 2013 MAVTV 500.

For the weekend schedule, pre-race stats, session timesheets and much more, click here to visit our 2013 MAVTV 500 Event Summary.

11:24 PM PT (Steph): The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship has been decided, and Scott Dixon has walked away the victor. Chevrolet has claimed the manufacturer’s title with Will Power’s race win.

INDYCAR has released a medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger on the condition of Justin Wilson: “Justin Wilson has non-operable pelvic fractures and a small pulmonary contusion. He will be kept overnight for observation.”

We’ll have much more coverage to deliver over the next few days. We’ll get our Event Summary updated as soon as we can tomorrow, and we’ll dig deeper into the events of the race and the championship as our coverage of the 2013 comes to a close.

Thanks to every one of you for your support of More Front Wing this weekend and all year long!

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4:24 PM PT (Steph): Congratulations to AJ Foyt Racing’s Anne Fornoro, the 2013 recipient of the Jim Chapman Award for Excellent in Public Relations in Motorsport. The award is given annually in the memory of legendary PR man Jim Chapman, who worked within open-wheel for many years, and PR representatives from all forms of motorsport are eligible.

AJ Foyt was on hand to congratulate Fornoro on the accomplishment. “She’s put up with a lot of crap,” he said in true AJ style.

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4:20 PM PT (Steph): With Carlos Muñoz claiming the win and Sage Karam gaining six spots during the course of the Lefty’s Kids Club 100 to claim a podium finish of 3rd, Sage Karam has become the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights champion and will be the last driver to win the Firehawk Cup as Firestone departs as title sponsor at the conclusion of this year.

“I can’t explain it,” Karam said afterward. “I was crying on that last lap, just to know the dream is almost in reach and to be in the IndyCar Series racing with my heroes. This season started out OK and it went really bad in the middle. We bounced back somehow and we’re champions now. The team just put together an awesome car week-in, week-out. I can’t thank them enough. Michael Fux, he’s like another dad to me and has been on-board with me forever now. The Comfort Revolution car is always fast, every week. I don’t know what else to say; I’m just so excited. Sam Schmidt runs an awesome operation with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Mr. Peterson. They’ve put together an awesome organization and I love being there. I’m pretty sure when we talking about next year, Sam is going to be the first guy we talk to.”

We’ll post a full race report on MoreFrontWing.com later today.

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3:00 PM PT (Steph): Chevrolet has released a statement regarding Andretti Autosport’s decision to switch to Honda power beginning in 2014:

“We’d like to thank Michael Andretti and the entire Andretti Autosport organization for their partnership in IndyCar Series competition during 2012 and 2013,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Michael, J-F Thormann and John Lopes lead a quality organization that resulted in Ryan Hunter-Reay winning the 2012 IndyCar Series driver championship. We would like to thank the Andretti Autosport drivers for their on-track achievements that contributed to Chevrolet clinching the 2012 manufacturers’ championship. They are all true professionals on and off the track. We wish them well and look forward to spirited competition in the future.”

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2:51 PM PT (Paul): Having covered this race last year by myself, I didn’t get much of an opportunity to explore the grounds here at Auto Club Speedway. Covering with Steph this year has afforded me a bit more of that chance. My first observation is that this facilty is massive. It’s not Indianapolis Motor Speedway massive, but the difference between Auto Club Speedway and IMS seems much smaller than the difference between Auto Club Speedway and, say, Chicagoland Speedway or Texas or any of the other 1.5-mile ovals. This shows up a bit when you see the cars here on TV as the length of the frontstretch seems to actually make the cars look signifcantly slower than they truly are. Seeing the grandstands here in person makes them look far more impressive than they appear on television. The downside of the enoromity of this facility is that it does somewhat lose the intimacy that you feel at a 1.5-mile oval and loses a lot of that feeling compared to somewhere like Iowa.

As Steph touched on earlier, this place is truly a dichotomy of the senses. Approaching the track is done from the south via I-10. Between I-10 and ACS is what would appropriately be described the Inland Empire steel industry with many foundries and production facilities. To say it isn’t scenic is quite an understatement. However, once inside the facility, none of that is visible. The grandstrands along the frontstretch face north, away from the “less scenic” view and towards a gorgeous mountain vista beyond the backstretch. In a way, it isn’t dissimilar to Homestead-Miami Speedway where being inside the track truly feels like you’re in an oasis compared to the immediate surroundings. (The palm trees down the backstretch don’t hurt the comparison either.)

For all the things Roger Penske did correct when he built this track during the mid-1990s, one of the major drawbacks of this facility is the single point of infield entry near turn 4. Making the walk from the infield paddock to the outside grandstands is no trivial task, requiring a walk of at least 20 minutes to the nearest seating areas. As the IndyCar Fan Village is outside those stands near the start/finish line, many folks are making the trek on this warm afternoon.

Speaking of the IndyCar Fan Village, that location was filled nicely this afternoon with families and race fans taking in the various exhibits. The line for the drivers’ autograph session was massive and certainly much longer than time allowed them to accomodate. It’s always great to see such a wonderful reception, and the enthusiasm of the fans gives me confidence that this event could have a long run on the INDYCAR schedule.

Besides the Fan Village, the midway outside the track really does have a full slate of activities for fans to enjoy. There are a number of music stages set up for bands, restaurants, and shops. Additionally, moto-cross style jumping exhibition was drawing a large crowd as was a large car show of tricked-out and chromed imports. In short, there are plenty of activities for fans to take in and burn the hours away before tonight’s big race.

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2:49 PM PT (Steph): Big news day with Andretti Autosport as they’ve announced a number of significant developments for the 2014 season:

  • James Hinchcliffe will remain in the #27 machine for 2014 (with an option for a one-year extension) under sponsorship by United Fiber and Data. This company is based in York, Pennsylvania, and is part-owned by three members of the rock band Live, who have had a close association with the team for the past couple of years.
  • UFD will also provide the financial backing needed to move Pro Mazda champion Matthew Brabham up to Indy Lights in 2014 with Andretti Autosport.
  • The entire Andretti Autosport team at the IndyCar level will move to Honda power in a multi-year agreement.

The full text of all of the releases relating to today’s announcements can be found at this link: Andretti Autosport announces sponsorship for Hinchcliffe and Brabham, move to Honda power. We’ll also post a quoteboard as soon as the text of the press conferences becomes available.

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1:53 PM PT (Steph): Andretti Autosport has released a statement regarding EJ Viso’s illness that prevented him from participating this weekend in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series finale:

Andretti Autosport was notified Thursday evening of E.J. Viso’s illness by both Viso and his health care provider. Viso made every attempt to make the trip to Fontana to take the track for his crew and sponsors. E.J.’s illness was too great and it was advised by his medical team that he remain home to recover. While we are disappointed that he will not be able to join us for the 2013 IndyCar Season finale this weekend, we are more concerned with his health. We will miss having E.J. around the track with us and wish him a speedy recovery.

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1:48 PM PT (Steph): Andretti Autosport has just announced that the polesitter for today’s Lefty’s Kids Club 100, Zach Veach, will return to the team to contest the 2014 Indy Lights season.

From the team’s press release:

Zach Veach, pole sitter for this weekend’s Lefty’s Kids Club 100 at Auto Club Speedway, will compete in a second Indy Lights season, returning to Andretti Autosport in 2014 with RePLAY XD sponsorship.

The Mazda Road to Indy veteran first joined Andretti in 2010 and competed for two seasons in the USF2000 National Championship, securing the 2011 USF2000 Winterfest Championship. In 2012 Veach competed full time to the Pro Mazda Championship and moved to Indy Lights in 2013.

In addition to being a developing star on track, Veach has an impressive portfolio off track and in the community.

In 2010 he was named as one of CNN’s “Intriguing People”, in 2011 named by ESPN the Magazine as a NEXT athlete in motorsports, and in 2012 was picked as a “Face in the Crowd” by Sports Illustrated.

He was also voted the “Most Popular Driver” in his racing series in both 2011 and 2012 and is part of Got Chocolate Milk?’s Team REFUEL. In 2013 he was interviewed by legendary television and radio host Larry King.

An advocate for safer driving and for bullying prevention, Zach has headlined a national anti-bullying campaign through the Cyber Safety Academy’s “No BULL Challenge” as well as served as the National Spokesperson for Foucusdriven.

In addition to all of this he also authored a book, 99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16 at age 16.

JF THORMANN, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT

“We couldn’t be happier to have Zach and RePlay XD back with us for 2014 Indy Lights. Zach has been with us since his first year in USF2000 and has been a strong and reliable driver. We look forward to watching him continue on his goal of reaching the IndyCar Series.”

ZACH VEACH, DRIVER

“I’m very thankful to be able to say I’m getting to run in Indy Lights next season again with Andretti Autosport carrying the Replay XD colors into 2014! My rookie season this year has taught me a tremendous amount on what it takes to run up front and I think we were able to start showing some of that here this weekend at Fontana! Next year we will be going for the Indy Lights championship with knowledge on how to succeed!

“I want to thank RePlay XD, Michael Andretti and JF Thormann for allowing me this opportunity, I’m very proud to say I’ve spent my whole open wheel career with this great team. I also want to thank all of the others that have made this possible for me, including The Young Marines, Ads IT Solutions, and Zakosi Data Back up.”

JOHN SPAR, PRESIDENT, REPLAY XD

“We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to be included in the impressive ride of Zach’s career. He is an amazing young man with amazing drive and talent. He and his father Roger have been incredibly important and helpful to RePlay XD’s success. We at RePlay XD are proud to have them as part of the RePlay XD family. Having the opportunity for Replay XD to work with someone as dedicated as Zach and as devoted as his Andretti team is a true pleasure.”

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1:25 PM PT (Steph): There are a number of IZOD IndyCar Series fans who are being treated extremely well this weekend.

Most readers of this site will also be readers of OilPressure, and the curators of that site, George Phillips and his lovely wife Susan, have been having a blast here at Auto Club Speedway. Yesterday, George had the opportunity to wave the green flag for Helio Castroneves’s qualifying run, and both George and Susan were treated to two-seater rides, which you’ll no doubt also be able to read about at OilPressure shortly.

I also spoke this morning to long-time MFW supporter and IndyCar fan Mike Silver, who’s here all the way from Indianapolis and had a chance to take a pace car ride this morning through IndyCar’s fan club, IndyCar Nation.

Much to my surprise, Mike described the experience as being even more thrilling than his pace car rides at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It far exceeded my expectations,” he told me as he described how he could really feel the pull of the G-forces in the turns, so much so that he felt the strain in his neck after being in the car for just three laps.

He also expressed surprise as how much of a tow he could feel from the car ahead of his on track despite only reaching a top speed of 95 MPH, less than half of what an IndyCar is capable of.

Mike said it gave him a whole new perspective on what IndyCar drivers go through in a 500-mile race. “I don’t know how they do it,” he said.

(As an aside, Mike is also the benevolent supporter we’ve been talking about here at More Front Wing who allowed us to cover three IndyCar races late this season while supporting Indianpolis-area charities. If you’ve followed along and enjoyed our coverage, please take a moment to say thank you to Mike. He’s on Twitter @tutorindie!)

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12:56 PM PT (Steph): Hello from Auto Club Speedway! (We’re getting started so late here today that we can’t even say good morning!) It’s a beautiful, sunny, and clear day here in Southern California — and while it’s expected to get quite hot this afternoon, by the time dusk rolls around it shoudl be a perfect day for an IndyCar season finale.

As you know, today is the day that decides who will walk away as the 2013 champions in both the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. In IndyCar, both Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon performed strongly yesterday, which is perhaps bad news for Castroneves as he attempts to chase down 26 points more than Dixon to claim his first title. In Lights, Sage Karam is feeling unsteady atop his points lead today as he struggled with a failing engine yesterday and will start at the back following a change; second-place Gabby Chaves, meanwhile, will start from the second row.

There are a number of side stories to follow as well, including which engine manufacturer claims the 2013 title (and who can earn points toward them doing so) and which teams will qualify for Leaders Circle status in 2014. We’ll bring you more information on those stories as it develops throughout the day.

Meanwhile, this is my first visit to Auto Club Speedway, so I’ll take a moment to jot down some first-timer observations.

This place offers a strange dichotomy in terms of first impressions. The trip into the speedway is decidedly unglamorous, for starters — to get here, you exit a freeway (that’s loaded with legendary Los Angeles area traffic, of course, despite being an appreciable distance from the city; even the locals stay in the area because they don’t want to deal with it) and then drive through a fairly grotty industrial area.

But once you’re here, it’s genuinely beautiful — mountains, palm trees, and cars flying by under the lights with the sunset in the background. If you’re standing in the right place at the right time, it’s almost ethereal.

That said, many of you know that I’m much more familiar with the road and street course format than the oval format, and that strikes me especially this weekend. In a way, the format here feels anticlimatic to someone like me who’s used to having things to do and race cars to watch from dawn to dusk all weekend long. To me, an 8 AM wake-up followed by rolling into the track at noon (which was quite a bit earlier than was even truly needed), watching a Lights race at 2:30 and then the IndyCar race at 6:00 with no other track activity whatsoever feels sort of unfitting of a championship weekend.

It did give Paul and I plenty of time to make our requisite west coast stop at In ‘N Out on our way to the track, though, which sort of makes up for it.

We’ll be back throughout the day to provide updates on events as they unfold. In the meantime, please remember that our coverage this weekend is in support of the Cancer Support Community of Central Indiana. If you find that you enjoy our coverage, we’d be very grateful if you could click on the banner above and make a donation!

Zach Veach, pole sitter for this weekend’s Lefty’s Kids Club 100 at Auto Club Speedway, will compete in a second Indy Lights season, returning to Andretti Autosport in 2014 with RePLAY XD sponsorship.

The Mazda Road to Indy veteran first joined Andretti in 2010 and competed for two seasons in the USF2000 National Championship, securing the 2011 USF2000 Winterfest Championship. In 2012 Veach competed full time to the Pro Mazda Championship and moved to Indy Lights in 2013.

In addition to being a developing star on track, Veach has an impressive portfolio off track and in the community.

In 2010 he was named as one of CNN’s “Intriguing People”, in 2011 named by ESPN the Magazine as a NEXT athlete in motorsports, and in 2012 was picked as a “Face in the Crowd” by Sports Illustrated.

He was also voted the “Most Popular Driver” in his racing series in both 2011 and 2012 and is part of Got Chocolate Milk?’s Team REFUEL. In 2013 he was interviewed by legendary television and radio host Larry King .

An advocate for safer driving and for bullying prevention, Zach has headlined a national anti-bullying campaign through the Cyber Safety Academy’s “No BULL Challenge” as well as served as the National Spokesperson for Foucusdriven.

In addition to all of this he also authored a book, 99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16 at age 16.

JF THORMANN, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT
“We couldn’t be happier to have Zach and RePlay XD back with us for 2014 Indy Lights. Zach has been with us since his first year in USF2000 and has been a strong and reliable driver. We look forward to watching him continue on his goal of reaching the IndyCar Series.”

ZACH VEACH, DRIVER
“I’m very thankful to be able to say I’m getting to run in Indy Lights next season again with Andretti Autosport carrying the Replay XD colors into 2014!  My rookie season this year has taught me a tremendous amount on what it takes to run up front and I think we were able to start showing some of that here this weekend at Fontana! Next year we will be going for the Indy Lights championship with knowledge on how to succeed!
“I want to thank RePlay XD, Michael Andretti and JF Thormann for allowing me this opportunity, I’m very proud to say I’ve spent my whole open wheel career with this great team. I also want to thank all of the others that have made this possible for me, including The Young Marines, Ads IT Solutions, and Zakosi Data Back up.”

JOHN SPAR, PRESIDENT, REPLAY XD
“We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to be included in the impressive ride of Zach’s career. He is an amazing young man with amazing drive and talent. He and his father Roger have been incredibly important and helpful to RePlay XD’s success. We at RePlay XD are proud to have them as part of the RePlay XD family. Having the opportunity for Replay XD to work with someone as dedicated as Zach and as devoted as his Andretti team is a true pleasure.”

“We’d like to thank Michael Andretti and the entire Andretti Autosport organization for their partnership in IndyCar Series competition during 2012 and 2013,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Michael, J-F Thormann and John Lopes lead a quality organization that resulted in Ryan Hunter-Reay winning the 2012 IndyCar Series driver championship. We would like to thank the Andretti Autosport drivers for their on-track achievements that contributed to Chevrolet clinching the 2012 manufacturers’ championship.  They are all true professionals on and off the track. We wish them well and look forward to spirited competition in the future.”

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