Friday, October 18, 2013

INDYCAR: Fontana Follies - Will it be a Sleeper or Possible Nail biter?

Otay, I'll confess that I began scribblin' this 'Wayback during that Oh So ATTROCIOUS 5wk Sabbatical (Look Ma! NO $5 Foot long Jokes here) that IndyCar took this year... As I feel I've been overly polite by mostly refraining from scribblin' or more likely SCREAMING; Hya! Just how exactly MORONICALLY STUPID that scheduling blunder was! Hmm? Just how many licks are there to the end of an IndyCar season; Uhm? Ooh, Sprinkles...

Thus with one last smash-em up Double Header weekend at Houston having not taken place when beginning this story, our three nearest title rivalists were Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud with Castroneves leading the points standings with 501, 49 ahead of Dixon and 70 ahead  of Pagenaud - with a maximum of 162-points still on offer, as a maximum weekend score of 50 for winning, 2 for Pole,  1 for most laps led and
1 for leading a lap = 54.

Personally, I've been rootin' for Scott Dixon to win his third championship title for the majority of the year as I'll admit I'm simply NOT a fan of 'HULIO's and probably never will be, regardless of his driving talent.

Yet our latest winner at Baltimore, (prior to Houston) Y'all remember when we ran around the inner harbour of Baltimore's mean streets for the last time 'Wayback on Labour Day, right? As "symone Pagenoe" (Pagenaud) undoubtedly my favourite driver of this trio won his second IndyCar race of the  year, also career-wise seemingly hauled himself back into contention as he was only a race win and-a-half out of leading the championship, (before Houston) albeit it'll be tough to gap the leaders especially if Castro-nervous simply keeps slop-slidin' his way home to midfield points finishes, eh? And then all HELL broke loose in Houston!

Yet it's funny trying to reflect upon the series a year ago, which seems so far away, especially since I was completely gutted again! By Will Power choking a third straight year in-a-row - and in fact was so bummed by this that I didn't even bother scribblin' anythingy 'bout I-T!

But back to our three Hombres, as here's a quick look at their respective CV's along with my somewhat sardonic look back upon the Houston Double Dipping fiesta.

Helio Castroneves
DOB: 5/10/75
Birthplace: Sao Paolo, Brazil
Age: 38
Poles: 41
Wins: 28
Debut Season: 1998
Indy 500 wins: 3; 2001-02, 2009
championships: 0

Overlooking my disdain for whom I typically call 'HULIO here upon these pages of No Fenders, nevertheless I'll begrudgingly acknowledge Helio Castroneves driving talent since after all, he's only one of nine drivers to ever win the Indy 500 three times, as I was unaware he's the first foreign born driver to do so.

Helio also can't be all bad I suppose, since he drove for the mighty Paul Stewart Racing (PSR) team in 1995 - finishing third overall in that year's Formula 3 championship before switching his attention stateside, where ironically he and fellow countryman 'TK "Follow-your-Schnoz" Kanaan became teammates at Steve Horne's Tasman Motorsports Indy Lights concern.

From there Castroneves graduated to the B-I-G 'CARZ in '98 with Tony Bettenhausen's CART team, followed by a stint at Hogan Racing before being snapped up by The Captain, nee Roger Penske, sadly as Greg Moore's replacement for Team Penske after the affable 'KuhNuck perished at Fontana in 1999.

And the rest they say is history, as Helio recorded his first two Indy 500 victories back-to-back in 2001-02, albeit his second victory still remains clouded in controversy vs. Paul Tracy and the famous yellow light...

Helio went onto claim his third Indianapolis 500 victory in May, 2009 after he'd missed the season's opening race while upon trial for Tax Evasion with eventual fulltime Penske Racing driver will Power standing in for him at St Pete before the team expanded to a part-time three car operation and then three fulltime cars between 2010-12.

Castroneves has finished runner-up twice in his  pursuit of a coveted ICS championship crown, 2002 and 2008, the latter upon a tie-breaker which fellow  competitor Scott Dixon won...

Scott Dixon
DOB: 7/22/80
Birthplace: Brisbane, Australia
Age: 33
Poles: 22*
Wins: 33
Debut Season: 2001
Indy 500 wins: 1; 2008
championships: 2; 2003, 2008

Although born in Australia to New Zealand parents, Dixon and family shortly moved back home where his roots are firmly fixed, having begun go karting at the age of seven and garnering national attention when caught on television struggling to exit his wrecked 'Tintop with a pillow strapped to his backside to enable him to reach the pedals at the tender age of 13, having been granted special dispensation to drive.

Yet Dixon soon became a force to be reckoned with, winning several 'Kiwi & 'Aussie single seater ladder series championships before diverting his attention stateside, since he desired an Open Wheel Racing career in favour of V8 Supercars.

Dixon came to America in 1999 where he signed with eventual long term manager "Stevie Johnson," aka Stefan Johansson's Indy Lights team where he flourished quickly before switching allegiances to my Home-team outfit PacWest Racing who he won the "Ought" (2000) Indy Lights title in convincing fashion for, before graduating to PacWest's Top 'Dawg Championship Auto Racing Teams squad in 'Twenty-oh-One where  he scored  his maiden B-I-G 'CARZ win at Nazareth, PA in only his third start.

Sticking with PacWest for '02, it readily became apparent that Bruce McCaw's team was in money trouble and Toyota wisely introduced the talented 'Kiwi to thee 'Cheepster, aka Chip Ganassi, where Dixon's stayed ever since - rewarding 'Cheep handsomely with two IndyCar titles and one Indy 500 victory to date, along with having won the prestigious Jim Clark trophy three times and the Bruce McLaren award twice; not to mention garnering a Rolex wrist watch (or 2?) for winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona as part of Ganassi's All Star driving line-ups...

Simon Pagenaud
DOB: 5/18/84
Birthplace: Poitiers, France
Age: 29
Poles: 0
Wins: 2
Debut Season: 2007
Indy 500 wins: 0
championships: 0

Although now out of the title fight and instead focusing upon finishing his sophomore season third overall, as I said before, "symone Pagenoe" is my very favourite of these three drivers - who's also most likely the future of the sport as he's just coming into his prime in only his second IndyCar season, having won the last true Rookie Of the Year honours in 2012.

Simon's path to Indy Cars was probably the most arduous, since upon having won the 2006 Champ Car Atlantics title in his Rookie season, which paid $2.0-million for his entry into Champ Car the following year with Derrick Walker's Team Australia outfit alongside somebody named Will Power; unfortunately with the reunification of 'Twenty-oh-Eight Simon was left on the sidelines looking forgotten by IndyCar.

Simon then turned his attention towards Sports Cars and the American Le Mans Series where he joined Gil De Ferran's team for the 2008 season, before the duo finished runner-up in the LMP1 category in his sophomore season. For 2010, Pagenaud joined rival Highcroft Racing where he'd go onto win that year's P1 crown alongside David Brabham.

With the advent of past team boss Gil De Ferran joining forces with Luczo Dragon Racing in Indy Cars, (2010) surely Pagenaud would become one of De Ferran Dragon Racing's Piloto's in the future, right?

Pagenaud is the only driver of this trio to have contested le 24 Heurs du Mans on a regular basis as a factory driver for the Works Peugeot squad with a best finish of runner-up in 2011before startlingly the French auto manufacturer pulled the plug upon its Le Mans program in 2012 - which fortunately Simon had made the wise decision to switch to IndyCar after having been snubbed by De Ferran Dragon previously, (which cratered in 2011) which was his overall ambition.

As Pagenaud he's been one BAD ARSE Hombre for Sam Schmidt, Davey Hamilton & Company ever since coming to Indy Cars, scoring his maiden B-I-G CARZ victory in the second round of Detroit's double header and then followed up by a superb victory at Baltimore before being eliminated from the championship after round-2 at Houston...

Thus, with Dixon leading the championship by 25-points after his 'Mega points resurgence from 49-points behind with finishes of 1st & 2nd coupled with Castroneves double gearbox maladies and Pagenaud being eliminated from the championship fight, which one of these two rivals will be crowned the 2013 Indy Car Series Champion at the end of Saturday night at Fontana - as your humble No Fenders scribe will be watching the action somewheres in Speedway, Indiana, hopefully at McGilveries - home of the Don Kay Autosport Radio Show...