News & Multimedia

Power, Castroneves, Pagenaud Battle For Title in Fontana

The title drought for Team Penske appears to be nearing the end.

Will Power and Helio Castroneves have stacked runner-up championship finishes like spent tires in the Verizon IndyCar Series with three apiece and five of those coming in the last six years, but come Saturday night the storyline could finally be different.

The season concludes with the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, California (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN), and Power and Castroneves are one-two in the battle to give owner Roger Penske his first championship since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.

“It’s obviously been a very strong year for Roger and a long time coming,” Power said. “Now we’re finally in a position for the team to do it, and for me, personally, I want to do it as well.”

The Australian is in the catbird seat, leading Castroneves by 51 points and needing to finish sixth or better to clinch the title. Castroneves needs to win the race and have Power finish seventh or worse to overcome the deficit and win the crown himself.

Simon Pagenaud has a longshot chance in the double-points finale, needing a win plus a terrible night from Power and an off-the-podium finish from Castroneves. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon were title-eligible at the start of the week but essentially had their hopes dashed when Power’s No. 12 Verizon hauler pulled into ACS. (Power gets points for practicing on Friday, which eliminates the two former Indianapolis 500 champions.)

If Power runs anywhere near as well as he did at Fontana last year, the title fight will be a walkover. Last year, he won from the pole in the 500-mile finale, a breakthrough for the driver who had always been more of a threat on road and street courses.

“I had always been competitive on oval tracks and I enjoyed the racing, but to crack that win was a confidence thing,” Power said in USA Today. “Now I know I can do it, and I feel as though it has become one of my strengths. When you get to that point, you know you’re on the right track. Before, it was hit and miss. Now I know I have a chance to win on every track on the schedule, and that’s what you have to have to win an INDYCAR championship.”

True to his career form, Power won the 2014 season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg in the Firestone Grand Prix and then the first race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual at Detroit. But he also finished second on the high-speed oval at Texas Motor Speedway and, earlier this month, won the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 on the Milwaukee Mile oval.

Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 champion and long an oval ace, moved to the top of the points standings in July with a runner-up finish at Pocono and held the top spot through three more races. But he lost the lead to Power after finishing 19th at Mid-Ohio, then fell further back with an 11th at Milwaukee and 18th last week at Sonoma.

“Yeah, very disappointed in the last three races,” said Castroneves, who will drive the No. 3 AAA Insurance car at Auto Club Speedway. “The Milwaukee race, we’re still trying to understand why we didn’t have the performance the same as Will and (teammate) Juan Pablo (Montoya), and last weekend unfortunately right at the start of the race having (Sebastian) Bourdais throwing a strike right at the beginning.

“So that frustrates you, but you can’t just let those bits bite you. We’ve just got to move on, and we still have one more race which is double points and 500 miles, so anything can happen.”

Anything can happen, but Pagenaud needs darn near everything to happen to take the title from his spot at 81 points behind Power – starting with winning the race.

“Well, it’s pretty simple,” said the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton driver. “I just have to go into the weekend very focused on trying to be competitive and go into the race thinking to win the race – that’s the only way I could have a chance to win the championship. I don’t have any pressure.”

The pressure is on the Team Penske teammates, but the numbers are on their side. And if it breaks their way, the end number will finally be 1.
 

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Power, Castroneves, Pagenaud Battle For Title in Fontana
 
Power, Castroneves, Pagenaud Battle For Title in Fontana
Will Power and Helio Castroneves have stacked runner-up championship finishes like spent tires in the Verizon IndyCar Series with three apiece and five of those coming in the last six years, but come Saturday night the storyline could finally be different.
Read More
Related Media
James Hinchcliffe Drives a Vintage Porsche
 
Hinchcliffe Tests Legendary Sports Cars at IMS
The three-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner was tasked by R&T to test drive a Porsche 962, one of the most legendary sports cars on the planet, alongside Porsche’s new 918, at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for an upcoming issue.
Read More
Juan Montoya
 
Montoya Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Montoya, 39, who grew up in Bogota, Colombia, equates his outlook on life to his proud heritage. Through Oct. 15, Americans are observing National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of residents whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Read More
James Hinchcliffe
 
Hinchcliffe Joins Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2015
The three-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner has signed a multi-year contract with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to drive the team's No. 77 entry, beginning with the 2015 race season.
Read More
Borg-Warner Trophy
 
New IMS Website Debuts
Fans of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will find a new online experience at the redesigned IMS.com.
Read More
Pagenaud Joins Team Penske For 2015
 
Pagenaud Joins Team Penske For 2015
Team Penske announced on Monday that Pagenaud will drive the team’s fourth car for 2015, joining Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 189
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact Phil Sparks at (317) 492-6463 or email at psparks@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
We talked brakes and tires with HOF Museum Historian Donald Davidson in the latest #AskDonald: http://t.co/SnJjPpsX2d http://t.co/ryi4Ay2SvT
about 16 hours ago