FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 2013 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway

First Impressions, IndyCar — By on October 21, 2013 1:40 pm
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With the MAVTV 500 and the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series now in the history books, the More Front Wing crew offers our first impressions of the season finale event at Auto Club Speedway.

STEPH’S IMPRESSIONS:

On Saturday morning, I was complaining that the typical easy-going oval race weekend schedule didn’t seem fitting for the final race of the year.

I was wrong. Once it got started, that was unquestionably a championship finale-worthy race. Truthfully, there might not be a better season-ending venue out there.

(I only wish it wasn’t based on the west coast such that the end of the season needs to come at roughly 1 AM Eastern time. Oh, and I also wish it didn’t have such a propensity for doing harm to drivers. It hurts like a sucker-punch to have two drivers sidelined by injury at the moment, the only consolation being that had those hits not happened in DW12s they both could have been much worse. Add Justin’s name next to Dario’s in the list of people we’re wishing a speedy recovery.)

There was plenty of thrilling passing and story fodder throughout the field all race long. And I don’t know about everyone else, but I found it very gratifying to see Will Power finish out this year in the complete opposite way he did the last — by finally finding success at a major oval event. Whether it was Fuzzy’s-induced or not, he was a different person post-race this weekend, and I wish the rest of the world could see the unsanitized Will more often because he’s much more human and easy to cheer for than many people realize.

Anyway, we’ll continue breaking down the stories from this race in the coming days, but in very brief summary: It was a fitting end — and almost a condensed rehash, in a way — for a season that had its highs and lows but ultimately saw 10 different winners (five of those first-timers), the Indianapolis 500 won by the official Most Popular Driver in the series, and enough on-track drama to keep us talking for months.

Now, try to keep that momentum going for as long as you can before the off-season political doom and gloom sets in!

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PAUL’S IMPRESSIONS:

Well, another season has come and gone, and now the long off-season begins again. The season finale race was really interesting from start to finish, and it was particularly exciting to see so many different drivers running well. A pair of guys that aren’t known for their oval prowess, Will Power and Sebastien Bourdais, both made headlines for their spectacular runs. Carlos Muñoz continued to excite like he did at Indianapolis (right up until the point he finally lost it as so many have been predicting). Ed Carpenter once again showed that he is a force to be reckoned with on any oval. And Charlie Kimball showed once again that he is certainly for real.

It wasn’t the wheel-to-wheel finish that we used to see on the ovals, but the hair-raising action throughout the night left fans on the edge of their seats throughout. I personally love ending the season with 500 miles on an oval, though I’m not convinced that doing so at 1:00 AM ET is the best idea.

The Justin Wilson crash (and subsequent broken pelvis) put a bit of a damper on the evening, but considering the direct impact he took from Tristan Vautier, it was a relief that he wasn’t more seriously injured.

Things will look a lot different when the series restarts at St. Petersburg at the end of March: TK at Ganassi, Ganassi at Chevrolet, Andretti at Honda, Bourdais at KVSH, and who knows who will be the title sponsor – but there is still a lot of action from 2013 to dissect and analyze. We look forward to doing so on MFW over the next few weeks.

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BASH’S IMPRESSIONS:

Whew — that was messy and chaotic, but certainly not dull. What a way to end the season. As always, the championship was a nail-biter until well into the race, but even when it appeared Scott Dixon would clinch the title, his problems with overheating left his ability to finish in doubt. Lots of emotions in this race as well, from Dixie’s title win to Helio missing out again. Will Power’s race win had him demonstrably wound up and pumped, but the evening’s excitement was tempered a bit for me by Justin Wilson’s injuries. With Dario’s awful crash in Houston, we’ve got two of our best all banged up with some recovery and rehab awaiting them. Guess it’s a good thing the season is over.

The chips are starting to fall into place for next season as far as who will be driving where. Seeing the rest of that play out will have to keep us entertained during this long off season. I’m hoping the powers that be use the down time to figure out a way to shine more light on this series, which has once again produced a season of thrilling racing that way too few folks are aware of.

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CHAD’S IMPRESSIONS:

What a race, what a season, what a comeback. There was plenty of action at Auto Club Speedway, even though the last 50 laps looked like the Firestone Indy Lights race. The good news was that of the few cars that remained in the race, the two championship contenders were a part of it. It was a survival race, and in a way, a survival season.

Look at all of the obstacles that Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi’s team overcame this year. There was the disastrous start to the season, the bad luck for Dario, Chip losing his father, the engine exploding in the team’s face at Texas, the Dixon/Power incidents at Sonoma and Baltimore, and the scary end of the Houston race for Dario Franchitti. Through all of that, Dixon went on to win the championship, and won the most races (4) of the season. In a way, those things defined them.

For every winner, there has to be a loser. For the fifth time in the last six years, that man is Roger Penske. Despite all of his success and though it isn’t fair, he will be asked about their lack of ability to close the deal and get another championship.

Speaking of that team, though, good for Will Power. We were all freaking out early on when he wasn’t winning races, and look what happened: he won three of the last five, which included a win and a pole on an oval – 500 miles, no less.

Still, what Dixon did (coming back from 7th place in the championship, 92 points behind entering the race at Pocono) was incredible. It’s something only The Iceman could do. The scary thing for the rest of the paddock is that he’s still got about another decade of racing ahead of him.

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