Auto Club Speedway will host as the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season finale for the second consecutive year Oct. 19 as Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves battle for the championship.
The 19th race on the schedule concludes on one of six races on an oval, and there has not been a repeat oval winner in 2013. Dixon leads by 25 points after finishing first and second at the Grand Prix of Houston double-header.
The MAVTV 500 is scheduled to begin at 8:50 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
Alex Tagliani will pilot Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10, subbing for injured Dario Franchitti after suffering a spinal fracture, a left ankle fracture and a concussion at the Grand Prix of Houston. Team Penske announced Oct. 9 AJ Allmendinger will return to the No. 2.
Ed Carpenter is the defending champion after winning at Auto Club Speedway in 2012, and also won the season finale at Kentucky Speedway in 2011.
The fastest drivers on ovals this season have come from the Andretti Autosport. Leading 608 laps as an organization, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe have led 237 and 233 laps this season, respectively.
From the previous five oval events, Andretti seems to show the most consistency in speed this year with an average starting position of 2.0, making him my favorite to win the 250-lap finale.
Castroneves looks for his first IndyCar championship, which has eluded him in his 15-year career. As both teams bring in drivers to add to the field, Castroneves potentially could give owner Roger Penske his first title since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.
Regardless of where Castroneves finishes, Dixon needs to finish fifth or better to clinch his third championship.
The last championship Dixon won in 2008, coincidentally, was fought against Castroneves following the finale at Chicagoland Speedway. Castroneves won the season finale ending with a 17-point deficit to Dixon in the point standings.
The 500-mile race Saturday will mark 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.
Both eligible drivers have won on an oval this season. When I looked at the statistics for these two in 2013, it led my prediction to whom will win the championship.
Between laps led and average finish, Castroneves is the highest lap leader between the two after leading 132 laps in his victory at Texas and he is averaging a 5.0 finish.
Dixon has not shown the speed on ovals this season as he did on road and street courses. His average finish is 12.0 and he led 38 laps at Pocono to score his only oval victory this season.
With both drivers’ record in 2013, and despite Castroneves’ impressive finishes this season, Dixon will seal the 2013 IndyCar Series title Saturday night and bring Chip Ganassi his 10th IndyCar championship.
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