Title Contenders Get Track Time in Fontana
September 6, 2012 | 5:00 P.M. EST
Will Power takes a 17-point advantage over Ryan Hunter-Reay into the season finale. (Photo: IndyCar)
Eight drivers, including IZOD IndyCar Series championship contenders Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power, tested the new chassis-engine package Sept. 6 on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval in advance of the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships at Auto Club Speedway.
Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, takes a 17-point advantage over Hunter-Reay into the 250-lap season finale (7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 15 on NBC Sports Network). Both will return - along with 20 others - to put in another day on the racetrack Sept. 12.
"This track will be great to race on; it is so wide and we'll have room to drive," Power said. "We all have a long way to go, but I think I have already run three completely different set-ups and we still have lots to learn before we come back and test next week and then qualify and race.
"During a 500-mile race anything can happen and it will be very exciting for sure. We want the championship and will work with a 100 percent focus to get it. Now till the checkered flag falls, no slowing down."
The race weekend schedule includes a 90-minute practice session (1:45 p.m. ET start Sept. 14) that precedes qualifications. A 45-minute practice follows at 8:45 p.m. (ET).
Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti - all of whom competed in the last IZOD IndyCar Series race at the speedway in 2005 - joined Katherine Legge, James Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay and Power in the test sessions Sept. 6. Franchitti won the '05 race by .1117 of a second over charging Andretti Green Racing teammate Kanaan.
"I haven't driven around the track since 2003 in a Reynard and I can tell you the track has picked up some 'character' since then," said Hunter-Reay, who grew up nearby. "But the race will be the same for all of us and I fully expect that the fans will see a fantastic race. We are chasing Will and want to keep hunting him to win the championship.
"We've already put a number of set-ups on the car and I think when we get to the race the fans will like what they see and I think that Chevy engine is up to the task. We are going to put on a great show -- very similar to Texas -- and I hope that we come out on top with a win and the championship."
INDYCAR president of competition Beaux Barfield attended as he sought driver feedback to help INDYCAR confirm the aero spec for the race. Lap speeds were in the 215 mph range in the morning session.
"I think the initial indications are it's definitely going to be a handling race, so I think it's no different than Texas," said Penske Racing president Tim Cindric, who is Power's race strategist. "It's early because we've only run here for a couple hours, so I think this is the worst case. The new tires and the cars are pretty good and pretty stable. We're not running fuel in them, so as you get throughout the run it becomes a bit more difficult. So I think you're definitely seeing a handling race at this point."
Scheduled to participate in the Sept. 12 test:
Team AFS - Sebastian Saavedra
A.J. Foyt Racing - Mike Conway
Andretti Autosport - Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay
Dale Coyne Racing - James Jakes, Justin Wilson
Ed Carpenter Racing - Ed Carpenter
KV Racing Technology - Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan, E.J. Viso
Lotus HVM Racing - Simona de Silvestro
Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing - Charlie Kimball
Panther Racing - JR Hildebrand
Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing - Oriol Servia
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing - Josef Newgarden
Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing - Graham Rahal
Target Chip Ganassi Racing - Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti
Team Penske -- Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves, Will Power