An IZOD IndyCar Series championship-deciding race at Auto Club Speedway next week will conclude a season with rundown story lines from both ends of the spectrum.
Through the first 18 races, IndyCar has produced 10 different winners, the most winners in a season since 2008. The IndyCar schedule closes on one of six races on an oval, while 13 other results on a road or street course.
The 2013 season started with continued momentum from Andretti Autosport, dominating early winning the first three of four races. Andretti Autosport leads the garage with the most wins in 2013, having won five races this season between James Hinchcliffe and 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. Chip Ganassi Racing has won four times with Scott Dixon and Team Penske has three victories between Helio Castroneves (one) and Will Power (two).
The Indianapolis 500 buzz started early with Butler-graduate Ed Carpenter setting qualifying pace with a speed of 228.762 mph. Passing a record-setting race, 68 lead changes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ended with Tony Kannan winning his first 500-Mile Race in 12 attempts.
Road and street courses were kind to first-time winners in IndyCar, allowing Takumo Sato (Long Beach), Simon Pagenaud (Belle Isle and Baltimore) and Charlie Kimball (Mid-Ohio) to find them in victory lane.
IZOD announced in late-September it would not be returning as title sponsor with IndyCar.
The end of the season took a turn for the worse as four-time champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Frachitti went airborne into the catch fence on the final lap of the Grand Prix of Houston Race 2. Franchitti suffered a spinal fracture, a fracture to the left ankle and a concussion.
IndyCar silly season has been a hot topic lately with drivers returning to the sport, drivers switching teams, teams switching manufacturers and schedule additions in 2014.
Former Formula One and present NASCAR driver, and 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya will return to IndyCar with Roger Penske in 2014.
Ganassi announced he will expand to a four-car organization with Kanaan next year, also switching from Honda engines to Chevrolet, too.
Lastly, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced a new road course race will be added in 2014. The road course is undergoing a reconfiguration, making it a 14-turn, 2.434-mile race scheduled for May 10 and raced from a standing start, clockwise. Tickets go on sale Monday for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500.
Alex Tagliani will pilot Ganassi’s No. 10 at Auto Club Speedway, subbing for injured Franchitti, in hopes of helping Dixon win an IndyCar Series title. Team Penske announced Wednesday AJ Allmendinger will return to the No. 2, as Dixon leads Castroneves by 25 points.
This is the eighth consecutive year the championship battle comes down to the season finale. If Castroneves is able to pass Dixon in the standings, it would be the fifth year in-a-row the points leader heading into the final race is not the champion.
And, that is a favorable statistic for Castroneves.
Author Bio: Thomas Hitch knows the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as being his home away from Greenwood, Ind. Walking the historic grounds since a toddler, he attended his first 500-Mile Race in 2000 and has not missed an event since. Thomas attended Ball State University for two years and since has transferred to Indiana University to continue his major in Journalism. Writing has always been a passion; however, he is expanding knowledge in social media, photography, radio and other forms. Personally, Thomas is one of two children, and enjoys hot summers, golf, photography and most importantly motorsports. Twitter: @ThomasCHitch