MAVTV 500

IndyCar has 500 miles to glory, through speed, dirt, tire fall off and unpredictability

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FONTANA, Calif. – Put off your evening plans and brew the coffee to stay up late for a late night, 500-mile shootout Saturday night from Auto Club Speedway for the MAVTV 500, starting at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Because if you miss the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale, you don’t get any live IndyCar racing for at least the next five, and possibly, six, months.

This season’s condensed 18-race schedule started the last weekend in March, and it will end the last weekend in August. Whether that’s a good thing depends on who you talk to in the paddock, or whether you note the year-on-year viewer increase for most TV broadcasts.

As always, the last race of the year offers a bevy of story lines that are usually hard pressed to be matched at other events throughout the year.

Need a primer on what to look for? Here’s some things to note:

THE TITLE BATTLE

For the second time in three years, IndyCar will have a first-time champion. That is a good thing, as it offers IndyCar another shot to promote a new champ after squandering the opportunity for American Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 due to the leadership in-fighting and eventual removal of CEO Randy Bernard that dominated the headlines.

Likely Will Power or Helio Castroneves will deliver Roger Penske his first title in eight years – if either falters, or has some bizarre sequence of events happens, Simon Pagenaud could still steal the title.

DOUBLE FOR THE JUMBLE

The championship battle is always going to be the main storyline, but the double points on offer could provide a significant shakeup in the overall top 10 standings.

From second-placed Castroneves (575) to sixth-placed Juan Pablo Montoya (519), there’s only 56 points that separate those five. So what currently goes Castroneves 575, Pagenaud 545, Ryan Hunter-Reay 534, Scott Dixon 523 and Montoya 519 could be significantly altered after Saturday night.

The rest of the top 10 could change significantly as well. The gap from seventh-placed Tony Kanaan to 11th-placed Ryan Briscoe is only 34 points.

The points breakdown this race: 1-100, 2-80, 3-70, 4-64, 5-60, with 6-10 decreasing by 4 points per position from there down to 40 for 10th, and with 11th through 22nd decreasing by 2 points per position from there down to 16 for 22nd. Four additional bonus points are on offer, one for pole, one for leading one lap and two for leading the most laps.

THE DIFFERENT WINNERS RECORD

We wrote about this leading into Milwaukee and the mark still stands – if a new winner emerges this weekend in Fontana, it will be the 11th of this season, and thus tie a record for the most number of different winners in a season.

THE RELIABILITY ISSUES

On ovals this season, the number of DNFs from Indianapolis through Milwaukee are, in order: 9, 5, 4, 7 and 2.

Last year at Fontana alone? There were 16 DNFs in the 25-car field – 6 alone within the last 100 miles.

With engine reliability compromised by the high heat of the race and the radiators getting clogged with debris, it made for a long night for a fair number of drivers. Both Chevrolet and Honda’s respective 2.2L V.6 engines have done well in battle thus far and rarely have issues, but between them, they had five failures in this race year.

THE TIRE FALL OFF

Wednesday’s test saw a fair number of cut tires, although it was later fixed by the end of the day. Still, fall off and wear should be an issue. A couple drivers I spoke to Thursday estimated the tires will be very good for the first 10 laps of a stint, decent over the next 30 and “hanging on” in the final 8-10 laps of a stint.

With the Mazda Road to Indy seasons complete, and without the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series also on the weekend schedule, this race is the first oval this year where just Firestone rubber is being laid down. So no Cooper or Goodyear rubber will be ground into the surface this weekend. The Texas and Iowa races had NASCAR on the docket, but no MRTI races.

THE DRIVERS WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE

Those drivers without a contract in hand next year – Simon Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe and more – will no doubt want to showcase themselves to potential suitors Saturday night, and it’s their last chance to do so before the winter.

Josef Newgarden has a contract in hand but still has yet to win his first ever race; Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Justin Wilson, Ryan Briscoe and Charlie Kimball are three potential 11th winners of the year; and there’s more still who could use a solid weekend to end 2014 on a high note.

Here’s all 2017 F1 cars on track today at Barcelona (PHOTOS)

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari leads Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track  during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Yesterday we took a look at all 10 Formula 1 chassis for the 2017 season, most standing still with the exception of the both the Ferrari SF70H and Haas VF-17, shot during a shakedown at Fiorano and a filming day at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, respectively.

Today though provided an opportunity to see all 10 Formula 1 cars on track with the first day of testing, a recap of which is linked here. You can hear all four engine notes and most of the cars here.

Here’s a run through of photos of them (all photos by Getty Images):

Mercedes W08 EQ Power+

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Red Bull RB13

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari SF70H

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Force India VJM10

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Williams FW40

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

McLaren-Honda MCL32

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Toro Rosso STR12

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Haas VF-17

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Renault R.S.17

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Sauber C36

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Times plunge as Hamilton leads first day of first Barcelona test

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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All the talk heading into the 2017 Formula 1 season was that the new cars would be significantly quicker than their predecessors, and in day one of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, that was exactly the case.

Lewis Hamilton took the new Mercedes F1 W08 EQ Power+ to a best time of 1:21.765, which was nearly 3.2 seconds faster than the quickest time on day one of testing last year, set by Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari (1:24.939).

Vettel was second today in the Scuderia Ferrari SF70H, also in the 1:21 bracket at 1:21.878. Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, now back for 2017 despite his planned retirement, was third in Williams Martini Racing’s FW40 chassis at 1:22.076.

MORE: Hear sounds from the cars at today’s test (VIDEO)

Vettel led the way from a lap count standpoint at 128 of them, with Massa also cracking the 100-lap threshold at 103.

But as Mercedes AMG Petronas banked over 150 laps on day one last year, they’ve done the same this year – albeit with both drivers.

Hamilton ran the afternoon session and completed 73 laps while the team’s new recruit, Valtteri Bottas, did 79 for his first official running with the team in the morning session. That meant Mercedes had 152 laps in the books out of the box.

While Mercedes was pounding away, others were less successful from a lap count and mileage standpoint.

Sensor and battery issues limited Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo to 50 total laps on the day, but the Australian was back going fuller in the afternoon in the not-so-unlucky RB13.

Kevin Magnussen completed the same number of laps in his first day at Haas F1 Team, despite an off at Turn 10 that damaged his front wing of the VF-17 chassi. Magnussen (1:22.894) and Ricciardo (1:22.926) were fourth and fifth on the day.

Their days were still slightly better than Sahara Force India, with Sergio Perez only clocking 39 laps in his VJM10 and McLaren, which lost most of the day to an oil systems issue for Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard made it out for 29 laps.

All drivers with the exception of Sauber F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson ran a faster lap today than Vettel’s best time of last year; Ericsson was only able to muster a 1:26.841.

Most of the fast runs were set on Pirelli’s red labeled supersoft compounds.

As ever, times aren’t as important as lap counts in testing and from that standpoint, Mercedes seems to have got off to another fast start with the other two 100-lap teams not as far behind.

Times are below; more to follow.

OVERALL

MORNING

IMSA 2017 Sebring test results

imsa_29055418
Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing for the 65th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring took place last week on Thursday and Friday, with Cadillac DPi-V.Rs again setting the pace across the board for the quartet of sessions.

A busy couple of days occurred, with the majority (if not all) those that raced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona joined by a handful of intriguing newcomers or returnees.

The Ferrari debut of Juan Pablo Montoya, along with the U.S. debut of Alex Lynn for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac team and the return of sports car veterans Marino Franchitti (Mazda) and Spencer Pumpelly (Alegra Motorsports) highlighted the new drivers.

IMSA’s recaps from Thursday and Friday are linked in this sentence, with test times below. Use this as a reference for when the series returns from March 16-18 for the second round of both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup seasons.

THURSDAY

Session 1
Session 2

FRIDAY

Session 3
Session 4

F1 testing returns, as do the sounds of this year’s cars (VIDEO)

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27:  Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Today marked the first day of running for Formula 1’s new 2017 cars in anger at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, as this week sees a four-day test from today through March 2.

And thanks to an apparent relaxing of the rules to allow for teams to post quick video on social media, you can hear the new cars as well as see them.

This is a good spot from F1 on NBC Sports producer Jason Swales:

Teams and onlookers at the test have taken the opportunity to post up these video clips to Twitter. An assortment of clips are below:

MERCEDES

RED BULL

FORCE INDIA

WILLIAMS

MCLAREN

TORO ROSSO

HAAS

RENAULT

Ferrari and Sauber haven’t yet released clips from their official accounts, but those may come later today. In the meantime, here’s a couple still shots the teams released:

FERRARI

SAUBER