Glare, bumps may pose issue for drivers at Fontana

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The IZOD IndyCar Series’ season finale next Saturday night, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, is the first night race for the series since Texas back in June.

The race is more than a month later than it was in 2012. Cooler temperatures are expected but potentially, the glare entering Turns 3 and 4 could pose an issue as drivers head down the backstraight.

“We had a test (Sept. 24) in Fontana.  We did face a similar issue.  I believe all the drivers agreed and exposed the situation, and I believe there is a scenario that might delay the race about 25 to 30 minutes,” Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves said Thursday on a teleconference. “I’m not sure about the time.  But I know about 5:50 or something is about when the sun is at a critical point in Turn 3 that we cannot see at all. So (INDYCAR president of competition and operations) Derrick Walker is already looking into it, and like I said, I believe they will make an adjustment in time so we won’t have that kind of issue.”

JR Hildebrand, who’s driving for Barracuda Racing next weekend, told me last weekend in Houston that going into Turn 3 in Fontana that you’re “nearly blinded” by the glare.

Some bumps in the corners – although the track is still fairly smooth, especially after the run of street courses – may also upset the handling of the cars. Penske took that to heart last year when Will Power washed up through Turns 1 and 2 over a bump in the turn; Castroneves explained Thursday it might be Turns 3 and 4 that could be a trouble spot this time around.

“The second thing about the bump and not only in 1 and 2 but in 3 and 4, the latest I heard is also they might do some touch‑up on those bumps so that we can prevent any kind of issues,” he said.

“But at this point the track is much different than Houston.  I’d say it’s much smoother, and I do believe it’s going to create a great excitement of several lines, people can go below, can go middle, can go high, so that can create a great kind of racing.”

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski