FONTANA, CA – For the eighth consecutive year, the IZOD IndyCar Series champion was determined in the final race — 500 high-speed, high-drama miles played out over 3 hours under the lights at Auto Club Speedway.
Scott Dixon, who entered the 19th race of the season with a 25-point advantage over title rival Helio Castroneves, secured his third series championship in the past decade in his 220th Indy car start. Dixon finished fifth in the MAVTV 500, while Castroneves placed sixth in the high attrition race. The final margin was 27 points.
“It was a crazy day,” said Dixon, who posted his field-high 10th top five of the season. “Just huge credit to Team Target. They played everything straight tonight. We had to work on a bit of strategy, we had to work on the car a lot, and then we had an issue with some overheating problems toward the end.
“I still can’t believe we’ve won the championship. So many people to thank and it’s just unbelievable.”
It is the 10th Indy car championship for Target Chip Ganassi Racing and the ninth with Honda (Dixon won in ’03 with Toyota).
Will Power, who lost the championship on this racetrack last year, won his third race of the season by 1.4883 seconds over 2012 race winner Ed Carpenter, who earned his first podium finish of the season.
“That is the most satisfying win of my life,” said Power, who had been the series championship runner-up in 2010, 2011 and 2012. “I wanted to do it so badly all year. I knew in the early ovals, I just was kind of conservative because I just wanted to finish every lap. And this time I’m going for it.”
Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan finished third and James Hinchcliffe, who earlier in the day announced his re-signing with Andretti Autosport for 2014, finished fourth.
Chevrolet earned its second consecutive manufacturer title.
Also on Oct. 19, Sage Karam knew he didn’t have to press for the victory in the Lefty’s Kids Club 100 to secure the Firestone Indy Lights championship. So even a grid penalty didn’t upset the plan developed for the 50-lap race.
Patience aided the 18 year old from Nazareth, Pa., who clinched his first title with a third-place finish. It is the seventh series title for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Carlos Munoz, driving the No. 26 Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport, won his fourth race of the season, holding off Gabby Chaves by .9966 of a second. Karam was 3.7 seconds behind.
Once Karam, who started at the rear of the field, moved to third early in race, he settled in to collect the points necessary to secure the title by 11 points over his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate. Karam entered the race with a 16-point advantage.
“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,” Karam said. “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.”
It was the first season in Firestone Indy Lights for Karam, who placed one spot behind Chaves in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship. Chaves, 20, of Weston, Fla., earned a victory at Mid-Ohio in early August and placed in the top five in 11 of the 12 races. He closed the season with seven consecutive podium finishes.
“It’s disappointing. We fight with our hearts every time and sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Today wasn’t my way,” Chaves said. “I did everything that I could. I knew I had to lead the most laps and tried to go around Carlos many times. I couldn’t do it. Great job to the team, to Sam (Schmidt) and thank you to everyone who has helped me.”
Munoz, who also won the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights race at Auto Club Speedway, moved to third in the final standings. Zach Veach, who earlier in the day re-signed with Andretti Autosport for 2014, finished fourth in the race.
MAVTV 500 POST-RACE QUICK QUOTES:
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series champion): “It was a crazy day. We started back. The car we had to work on a fair bit through the race. Just huge credit to Team Target. They played everything straight tonight. We had to work on a bit of strategy, we had to work on the car a lot, and then we had an issue with some overheating problems towards the end. I still can’t believe we’ve won the championship. It’s fantastic. So many people to thank and it’s just unbelievable.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, winner MAVTV 500): “It’s the most satisfying win of my life. That is the most satisfying thing I have ever done. And I wanted to do it so badly all year. I knew in the early ovals, I just was kind of conservative because I just wanted to finish every lap. And this time I’m going for it.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet): “Another top 10 – that’s been the theme of this year. Unfortunately the one race in Houston threw us off and cost us the championship, but great job Ganassi and great job to Scott (Dixon). We really fought as hard as we could, but I think it was a great race. It was just an awesome race and I think it was great for the fans. I was having a great time and really going for it. There was nothing calm about that race. It’s just a shame that we had to have that little contact with the 83 (Charlie Kimball). I’m certainly disappointed, but it’s not the first time. We just need to bounce back and look to 2014. There’s just nothing you can do about it. We did everything we could in our power to make that win happen. You just have to understand that we didn’t lose. We fought as hard as we could and finished second position. Ganassi just did a great job. Congratulations again to them and Scott.
That’s the good news about a new year with 2014 – we have another chance to win. We did an excellent job with the team and I’m so proud of Team Penske. I am honored to be a part of this organization. We really just pushed as hard as we could. I just want to thank the whole team, the guys out there on the floor, and Roger. Without those guys, there’s just no way that we’d be where we are today.”
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva Chevrolet): “I’m pretty happy with our eighth-place finish. I hope Justin is OK. I looked over and he seemed to be moving so I hope he’s doing OK. We kind of got tangled in the accident and had nowhere to go and spun out. Luckily, I managed to not damage the car that much. I think some of the tow-links were a little bit bent so it felt a little bit funny. But, we stayed out there and people kept falling off. I’m pretty happy, but I think it was one of the longest races I’ve ever done. Big thanks to the team. I feel like in the last few races we’ve really worked in the right direction and that was a lot of fun. I also want to thank my Nuclear Clean Air Energy sponsors Entergy and AREVA for all their support. I’m really happy that we were able to finish the season on such a strong note.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “I was trying hard tonight. I thought when we got to the front with the last few restarts that we might have a good shot to win. We came in the pits the last time, and took some downforce off the rear wing to get more straightaway speed for the finish. And it was working. It got us to second. Will (Power) was real fast the few three or four laps out of a yellow. Then we started reeling him in and we just ran out of laps. If it had gone a little further, I thought we could have caught him. That is the way it goes, and it’s 500 mile race. It was a crazy one tonight. It would have been hard to run the whole race with the car that trimmed out. For a shootout at the end, it was manageable. I think Will did the same thing too. He was a little quicker at the start of a stint than us, but he was falling off quicker too. He opened up a big enough gap that we couldn’t get him back. It’s not a win, but it is a good way to finish off the year. I was hoping to win the race for Chevrolet and clinch the Manufacturers Championship, but Chevy did finish one through four tonight. So I want to congratulate the Chevrolet folks on the title.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA CITGO Chevrolet): “I think I was doing a good job during the race although during practice I wasn’t feeling all that comfortable. But ever since we started tonight’s race, from the first lap, it was like my mind shifted – feeling really comfortable, the car was great, great first run and pitstops, great restart… in the end I just lost the car. It snapped, and I couldn’t do anything. It was my first crash on an oval, but there’s always going to be a first time. I feel really bad for the team. Obviously my plan was to finish the race, but we couldn’t do it. I’m happy with my performance up until the crash, and I’m just looking forward to next year.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): “I think the DHL car could have won tonight; we led that whole first stint so it’s just really disappointing. We were running second when we had to come in for a flat tire, and then the overheating issues really are what ended the day for us. We came into the season determined to defend the No. 1, but had a lot of bad luck so it just didn’t play out. We’ll work hard this winter, come back next year and fight to earn the championship back. I want to thank everyone at DHL, Sun Drop, Chevy and the entire team for all their hard work and support this year. It was an honor for me to represent IndyCar as their champion this last season and it wouldn’t have been possible without so many great people standing behind me.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet): “Man, what a race – 500 miles makes for a long evening. We had pretty much everything possible happen to happen to us. We got into Will (Power) on that restart, and he must have had a problem; he just didn’t accelerate. Unfortunately it did our wing in and we were sitting in a good position at that point. After (earlier) a stop put us two laps down, the team just fought so hard to get those laps back. To find ourselves back on the lead lap near the end there… it was just awesome. The car was great when it needed to be; not as good in traffic maybe as much as we needed, but we were up near the front and it was awesome. Our car died in pit lane, we got into it with (Sebastien) Bourdais on track – I mean, it was literally everything that could go wrong. Unfortunately, at the end, we had the temperatures skyrocket in the engine and we were losing some power. We probably had something for second and third, but I’m just happy to end this season on a high. The whole GoDaddy team fought so hard tonight and I’m really proud of that, and I’m really proud of the entire GoDaddy team. It’s a great way to end the season, a great way to end the relationships with GoDaddy and Chevy and to be able to bring them a strong finish, something they can be happy to remember. A big thanks to the whole team, GoDaddy and Chevy for an awesome year. I love the momentum we’ve got going into the offseason, and we’re just going to try and hit the ground running in 2014.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas / Big O Tires Honda): “I had been struggling with the rear of the car the whole race. We started to make some inroads and started to make it a little bit better but to be honest, the whole time I struggled with the back a little too much. It was very sensitive with front wing changes. At the end of the day though we were just going to try to cruise along and get to the finish. Unfortunately I think we ended up dropping a valve in the engine and it shut off. We weren’t going to set the world on fire but we were definitely going forward and that all we can ask for. (About 2014:) “We just have to keep working. This is a good team that’s got a lot of heart. We’ve got to keep working hard.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): “The first stint of the race wasn’t too bad. We had dropped back a little bit but were still holding position and then we really struggled with the balance of the car and was fighting it but just trying to stay on the lead lap and get something going towards the end of the race and I just got involved in a wreck. I was on the high side and there was so much smoke and cars and I just got collected. There was nowhere to go. Before that, it was just so dirty and there was so much debris. I put nine tear-offs on and I had already gone through five. It was a mess out there. Its disappointing to end the season like this because I think we showed good pace just like we did in qualifying but we will just move on to next year.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): “The first few laps were difficult because we had an issue with our tires. Luckily we were able to recover from that. We had an incredible race car though, I couldn’t believe how strong it was in traffic. We drove our way back from one lap down to eighth, and then we even ran as high as fifth. We had a top-five or top-six car, but unfortunately we had an engine issue in the end. It’s unfortunate but we were strong all night. We’ve been able to show that we can be strong in every race now. It’s only our second year but we’re third in the championship, which is seriously cool. I’m so proud of the guys and the HP team for what we’ve accomplished this year.” — Simon Pagenaud
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): “We had an awesome night. We were really fast. We were struggling really for the last 10 laps of the stint. We were getting bottled up in traffic so I was really trying to get in the lead and get some fresh air, clear air. I knew if we had any chance finishing well I was going to come through that. I guess were just not quite fast enough to clear these guys. I wanted to keep my tires so I started to run up there when I started to fight with Charlie (Kimball). I had been running the bottom to get back there so I had used up my tires quite a bit. But the story of the night was strong runs.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Dr Pepper Chevrolet): “It’s just frustrating because I feel like we have had the car a few places to win, but we just have to watch the lead slip away from us every time. It’s a frustrating way end the season, but I guess it’s on to next year.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): “First of all, major congratulations to Scott for winning the championship and to the Chip Ganassi Racing organization as a whole. The goal tonight was for Scott to clinch the title in the No. 9 car and we were able to do that. We were able to run up-front and prove that the No. 83 Novo Log FlexPen car was quick. It was unfortunate to have a mechanical failure that close to the end. We had a good restart, the car was just getting better and better and we were in good shape for the end of the race. Overall, we’re looking forward to the 2014 season and what the future holds.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “It looks like we had an engine problem with some overheating possibly caused by some debris inside the radiator. The boys tried to scoop all the debris out from the intake box but it looks like we had an overheating problem. Very disappointed to end the season like this. Tonight was a tough race but we fought hard & the ABC Supply boys did a great job in the pits. We were gradually moving up. Overall we wanted to finish high but we had a fantastic season. We had difficulty mid season but we came back strong. Just want to say a big thank you to everyone on our team for a tremendous year.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): “It’s unfortunate. These things can happen when you’re racing close like we do in IndyCar. Everyone does a great job out there and I think it just speaks volumes to the safety of the DW 12 Chastity and all the work that IndyCar puts into safety. I feel really safe as a driver out there. Right now I’m just glad that everyone is safe. I was concerned about Justin I’m glad Servia is ok. I got into Servia and it was not the easiest of hits getting into him. I’m totally fine, I didn’t get hit hard at all. It really just sparked from Justin getting loose. Everyone was getting loose tonight it was tough and it was changing depending on what tires you were on. It could change every stint. It was difficult to keep the cars underneath us. Justin just had a moment and as soon as he spun in the middle of 1 and 2 there was a lot of smoke that was poured up and I didn’t want to t-bone Justin. As soon as I saw him in front of me spinning I didn’t want to come into the side of him, so I ended up going right, slamming into Servia and then obviously there was an effect to the rear of us, and Tristan and James Jakes got involved. If everyone is ok, that’s the best thing you can ask for. Definitely a tough night for us at SFHR.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): “I saw Justin (Wilson) getting loose and I thought I’d be able to avoid it, and I did. But Josef (Newgarden) was there as well and collected me, but it was just one of those things where it was too many of us in the same real estate. Nobody did anything wrong because there was nowhere to go. But it was a shame because we were dialed in to be strong at the end of the race. It was tough out there tonight – everybody was sliding around, so it was one of those nights where you wanted to get to the last pit stop and then start racing. Everybody was being patient and driving really smart, but things can always go wrong.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda): “All in all, we have to be very satisfied with the performance today. As long as it’s not driver error, my preference would always be to run well, have a shot at it towards the end, and have something like today happen, than just run lousy all day. The Barracuda Racing team has done a great job. From yesterday to today with minimal running, to dial the car in, and we kept it more or less in the window for the whole race. We got a little aggressive at points but we did a good job of dialing it back and we would’ve had a great car right at the end because I think we had a good feel for where we were going with it. As frustrating as it is to not get the result, I think it’s a positive note to end the season on.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Hydroxycut/KVRT-SH Racing Chevrolet): “I’m sure somebody came on (Ed’s) radio and said “Please don’t let TK win this one,” so I’m happy that it ended up the way it did. I didn’t have anything for Will anyway, so just to take Ed’s place was going to be – I didn’t have anything for him either. We had a pretty eventful race. I want to say hi to Dario at home, he asked me to finish on the podium and Dixon to win the championship, so here’s your wish, now we’re going to ask you please come back.”
From Amy Konrath, INDYCAR