Friday notebook: Start time moved for MAVTV 500 and more

Leave a comment

A few news and notes will follow below from the first day of on-track activity here at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. – site of the MAVTV 500 IZOD IndyCar Series season finale (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra).

  • Start time officially moved to 6:10 p.m. Purely for safety reasons, the start time of tomorrow’s race has been moved back 20 minutes from 5:50 to 6:10 p.m. PT and local time (9:10 p.m. ET). TV coverage will still start on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET. The reason for the change is that the glare from the sunset entering Turns 3 and 4 is directly in the drivers’ eyes. Helio Castroneves addressed this concern in a recent teleconference.
  • Miles, Zucker hold presser. Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, head of INDYCAR’s parent company, and Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker held a press conference earlier today to go over the just-announced 2014 IndyCar schedule and also ACS’ role in it. Likely, an even later start than the 6:10 p.m. time this year will be necessary for next year’s race. A handful of quotes from these two will follow in a further post on Saturday.
  • Vautier named ROTY. Tristan Vautier was officially awarded the SUNOCO Rookie-of-the-Year honors Friday afternoon before the final practice of the day at ACS. But, as the Frenchman joked during the press conference, “Not my biggest (award),” since he had no full-time rivals this year. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver said the biggest change to adjust to in the jump from Indy Lights was race length, and he said if all goes to plan he’ll be back with the team in 2014.
  • Fuzzy’s has $250,000 on the line. If we didn’t touch on it earlier this week, we’ll mention it now. Fuzzy’s Vodka has $250,000 on offer if either Tony Kanaan or Scott Dixon wins Saturday night; that will make it two out of three for them in the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown. A $1 million bonus was available had Kanaan – or anyone else who won the Indianapolis 500 – swept all three races at Indy, Pocono and Fontana.
  • Veach takes Indy Lights pole. Zach Veach secured his first career Firestone Indy Lights pole in qualifying for tomorrow’s Lucky’s Kids Club 100. Teammate Carlos Munoz was second, with title contenders Gabby Chaves third and Sage Karam seventh. Karam, though, will start from the rear of the nine-car field after an engine change.
  • Hello, goodbye. We’ll touch on this more tomorrow as well, but the season finale means some hellos and more goodbyes. It is definitely the last race for Kanaan (KV Racing Technology-SH, pictured) and Sebastien Bourdais (Dragon Racing) at their respective teams. It is the possible last race for more than a handful of others at theirs. Meanwhile back in the saddle this weekend after missing Houston are: AJ Allmendinger, Carlos Munoz, Alex Tagliani, Pippa Mann and JR Hildebrand.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

Leave a comment

For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “