Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:
1. If You Missed It – Scott Dixon Teleconference
2. Downforce to Compensate for Forecast High Temps at MAVTV 500
3. Montoya, Power Earn ESPY Nominations
1. If You Missed It – Scott Dixon Teleconference: Verizon IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon was the guest on the INDYCAR media teleconference to discuss this weekend’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
Q. What are your thoughts on the season so far? You’re third in points, but you are a little bit behind the Penske duo of Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power. You’re usually strong in the second half. Heading to Fontana, do you think you are in position to contend for another series title?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you hope so. I think with how the season’s gone, the No. 9 Target car has been strong in just about every scenario. We’ve had some pretty sore races I think with St. Pete, the mechanical issue there with the airjacks. Then New Orleans was kind of the non-race there. Toronto was a bit of a bummer, I think, with strategy and just how we ended up there. I think we could have capitalized on a good points-ending day there.
Still third in points, 40-odd something out of the lead. Still in great contention for the championship.
It’s never easy. It’s tough. I think the Penskes have been extremely strong this year, especially on the street course scenarios, qualifying on the ovals.
But I think hopefully we can have a smooth run and gain some much-needed points on Juan and obviously Will. But Helio (Castroneves) is very close, as well. The championship, as always, is going to come down to the wire.
Q. California has been good to you. You won at Long Beach, won the 2014 race at Sonoma. You could complete the California sweep this weekend at Fontana. You’ve never visited Victory Lane at Fontana. Would it be gratifying to win at a track where you’ve never won?
SCOTT DIXON: Always. You always want to win, no matter what track it is. It’s rewarding definitely the first time you maybe get to have a shot at winning.
Fontana, we’ve had mixed results there. Last year we were very dominant, I think, with both cars. T.K. (Tony Kanaan) did a phenomenal job capturing the win late in the race, to take that.
I think we’ve done well on ovals so far this year. The car was very good at Indy, despite the overheating of the engine at the end of the race that cost us another shot at the 500. And in Texas, both the 9 and the 10 were definitely the class of the field.
We’ll have to see how it goes for Fontana this weekend, but typically a track I think the team does quite well at. Hopefully we can continue that trend.
Obviously different conditions this year going from a night race to a day race. It should hopefully be not too hot. Looks like the temperatures are kind of mild for this time of year. But I think (tire) degradation and trying to maintain pace over a stint is going to be the tough situation, especially with the track temp being higher during the day.
Q. Scott, how much information do the teams gather from other ovals like Indy and Texas that can be applied to California? Or is it the fact that you’re coming to California with a new kit, it’s a clean sheet of paper?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, you definitely learn things. Anytime you’re on track, you’re going to be in learning situations. Each track changes a little bit. I think California, you have sidewalls and (indiscernible), whereas you don’t have them at Texas or Indy as well. There’s a lot of different configurations that really manipulate what the car does.
You’ve got to give Chevy a lot of credit because they’ve mapped everything very well, but it’s still trying to find out the ultimate speed that you need on a consistent level to be the fastest over a stint.
The added tough part to that is Chevy have a lot of options, which is great, too, we have a lot of options, but you can mess it up.
I think some things always (indiscernible), especially with setups and cross-weights and mechanical things. But each track is very unique. Each time you go back, the track is quite different. The tire could be different. It’s always a lot of unknowns.
But I think this year there’s a lot more added unknowns going into the weekend than we’ve had previous years.
Q. You have 37 wins in your Indy car career. That puts you fifth on the all-time list. You trail only A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti and Al Unser. Do you look at the record books and think about your place in the sport’s history?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it’s been more prominent for myself just for the sheer fact that we have moved up in significant points in the past couple years. So, yeah, you become more aware of it. To be on that short list of Foyt, Andretti and Unser is pretty astonishing. It feels great.
You know, as I’ve always said, stats are something that I hope to look back on when I leave the sport, and hope to be happy with what we’ve achieved.
As I’ve always said, too, all but one of those wins has been with Team Target. If we do things right, we’ll be able to move up on that list a few more spots.
2. Downforce to Compensate for Forecast High Temps at MAVTV 500: The superspeedway aerodynamic configuration for the MAVTV 500 on June 27 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., will remain as written in the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.
The rear wing mainplane angle must be set between 0 degrees and -10.5 degrees for the 250-lap race on the 2-mile, D-shaped oval with 14 degrees of banking in the turns. It was -6 degrees to -10.5 degrees for the race June 6 on the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway oval.
Six degrees more rear wing, even without a wicker that is unapproved for the event, will add about 300 pounds of downforce to compensate for the forecast 90-degree afternoon ambient and higher track temperatures. The past three Verizon IndyCar Series races at the track have been contested under the lights.
“We looked at the downforce increase that we had at Texas and saw marginal improvement in the degradation from the tires,” INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips said. “Fontana is a little different in that it doesn’t have the tire degradation that Texas did when you go through the stats from 2014, so it’s just the challenge to drive the track, which is why it will have more downforce in the heat of the day.”
A sidewall or trimmed sidewall added to the underwing are among the aero kit-approved options. Front and aft rear wheel guard closure panels that were added for the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway will remain part of the aero platform.
3. Montoya, Power Earn ESPY Nominations: Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power and recently-crowned Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya headline the Best Driver category for the 23rd ESPY Awards.
Celebrities from sports and entertainment will convene July 15 at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances. The ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) awards were first presented in 1993.
“Look at the list of former winners of the ‘Best Driver’ category and you can see that it is quite an honor just to be nominated,” said Montoya, who also won the Indy 500 in 2000 and has victories in Formula One and NASCAR. “What’s amazing is that I have raced against almost everyone on that list of former ESPY winners. I love the Verizon IndyCar Series and I think we have the best racing in the world. It’s important for us to have ESPN acknowledge our accomplishments.”
Montoya, who has won two races this season, is the Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader heading into the MAVTV 500. Team Penske teammate Power is 27 points behind in second place.
Power earned his first series championship in 2014 with three victories and 15 top-10 finishes overall in the 18 races. This season, driving the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, he has won the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and added four other top-five finishes in the 10 races.
At Toronto on June 13, Power secured his fifth pole of the season and 41st of his career to overtake Rick Mears for fifth on the all-time Indy car list. The MAVTV 500 will mark Power’s 150th Indy car start.
Other nominees in the Best Driver category are Kevin Harvick (NASCAR), Erica Enders-Stevens (NHRA) and Lewis Hamilton (Formula One). Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport won the Best Driver award the past two years, following his 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series championship season and his scintillating Indianapolis 500 victory in 2014.
“Racing is all I ever wanted to do. To be acknowledged by one of the leaders in the sports world is something that means a lot to me,” Power said. “Ryan Hunter-Reay brought the award back to INDYCAR for the last two years and I hope I can keep it here.”
The awards show, hosted by actor/comedian Joel McHale, airs at 8 p.m. (ET) on ABC. “SportsCenter at The ESPYS” from 6-7 p.m. (ET) and “The ESPYS Countdown Show” from 7-8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN kick off the evening.