Kanaan Takes 500 At Fontana
FONTANA, CA -RIS- It was a race of numbers and when the numbers were all added it was Kanaan and Power with big numbers and big smiles.
Will Power has had come into to the race knowing that if he could come home in sixth or better he would be the champion. It was too much like the situation in 2012 when an early race accident had cost him the title. Tonight it was Helio Castroneves's misfortune which closed the deal for Will and gave him the win. Castroneves lost a lap late in the race after a pit lane violation and dropped from title contention with a 14th place finish. Power had started on the back row but lead before a bad wing adjustment at the final pitstop started his slide to the rear. He came home ninth which was good enough with Castroneves in 14th.
Simon Pagenaud started the race with a small hope of a title but that was over early when he stopped on lap 21 for an unplanned pitstop. It was the start of a night of frustration which ended up with a 20th place finish seven laps down.
In looking at the past finishes at Auto Club Speedway two drivers standout for their experience and results. Helio Castroneves is one and Tony Kanaan is the other. The both had ten races to their credit. Tony came in with six top five finishes in his last seven races including two seconds and two thirds. Tonight he got the number one which he had been so near for so long. In eleven races Helio Castroneves had finished a best of fifth.
The race was run with only one caution and that was for Ryan Hunter-Reay who spun at the exit of turn four on lap 175. He came out of the turn and spun down into the infield fronting the pit lane and did not hit anything. He was restarted and returned to the race but eleven laps were consumed cleaning up the track for the final laps. It was remarkable that no cars retired for mechanical problems and the one starter who did retire was for driver illness. That was Carlos Huertas. Mikhail Ileshin was a non-starter due to his injuries the night before in practice.
Due to the caution laps Sam Hornish's 207 mph record for 400 miles stands though Jimmy Vasser's record for 500 miles at 250 laps was beaten by 44 seconds. The record held by Vasser was set in the days when ChampCar was the sanctioning body in 2002 and they mesured the track as 2.029 miles. The result was that they came up with a speed of 197.995 mph at a time of 2:33:42.977 while Kanaan was shown at 196.111 but a time of 2:32:58.459. Since the track lenght has not changed and both records were for 250 laps the 2014 race is actually faster.
Yes, a race of numbers.
2012 race winner Ed Carpenter had a tough night on his way to third place as he was penalized for a pit lane speed violation on lap 106.
Reporter for RIS since 1996. Photo since 2002.