There will be a much different vibe for IndyCar drivers in this Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
When IndyCar brought ACS back online in 2012 after a six-year absence from the schedule, the high-speed 2-mile Fontana, Calif., track became the de facto season-ending race.
And that’s the way it had been in 2012 (last of 15 races), 2013 (last of 19 races) and 2014 (last of 18 races).
But not 2015.
Instead of going on vacation, drivers will still have five more races after Saturday’s contest at Fontana.
ACS will host just the 11th race of this season’s 16-race schedule. As was the case in the three prior races, Saturday’s race will be a 250-lap event around the fastest track on the circuit.
It will also be the third of six oval track races on the 16-race schedule, meaning that four of this season’s last six events will be on an oval.
Meanwhile, nearly 500 miles to the north, Sonoma Raceway, which ironically enough hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup series this weekend, will host the IndyCar season finale on Aug. 30.
Will Power, who clinched his IndyCar championship in last year’s season-ending race at Fontana, lamented the change in the schedule.
“It’s going to be a bit different going to Auto Club Speedway this year and not having it as the season finale,” Power said. “You know, I’m always going to think back to winning my first Verizon IndyCar Series championship there last year, so it’s always going to have that ‘end of year’ feeling to it.”
While he’s sad to see Fontana no longer be the season-ending race, Power admits the track has been both good and bad for him since it came back on the schedule in 2012.
“For me, Fontana has been a roller coaster of emotions over the last few years,” Power said. “We missed out on the championship there in 2012.
“I came back to score what I consider one of my greatest wins there the next year. And last year we finally closed the deal there to win the title.”
But lamenting won’t change the schedule. Power still understands that even though Fontana is no longer the season-ending race, he still has important business to take care of Saturday.
“I love racing there; I think we all do,” Power said. “It’s amazingly fast, but it’s wide enough where you don’t really feel wheel to wheel.
“It’s just a great place for our cars and I’m excited to go back and try to put the Verizon Chevy in Victory Lane there once again.”