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With a championship on the line, the battle between Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves is going to go down to the wire but as far as the race goes, this is going to be one for the money. Auto Club Speedway has a great open wheel on track product, and last years return did not disappoint.

With Power taking the pole, that makes it one less point the Castroneves could have earned to make up the 25 point deficeit that he fell into after his Houston gearbox failures that all but obliterated his points lead. What Castroneves has to do, basically, is to win the race and lead the most laps and hope that Dixon will finish 8th or worst. With there being a 10 point difference between winning the race and finishing second, winning would be his best bet because if he finishes second, Dixon would have to finish in 15th or worst for Castroneves to take the title.

Team orders were a factor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Richmond where Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Clint Bowyer spun out to cause a caution and teammate Brian Vickers pitted to elevate Martin Truex, Jr. to a position to get him into the Chase for the Championship. This brought up a question in the media center whether or not Power would let Castroneves by to take the win. Power responded:

Really, I can take a very high line, let’s just say that.

Well, no, c’mon.  If you just sit there and say, I’m going to race my teammate really hard for the win, what are we talking about?  Everyone knows what the deal’s going to be.  That’s what it’s going to be.

Every single team in this pit lane in this situation would do the same thing.  Not just back off over the line.  It is what it is.  Not going to let him go, but not going to race him hard.

Penske is also fielding a third car for AJ Allmendinger to reinforce Castroneves’ championship chances. Despite not being in an IndyCar since late May, Allmendinger responded very well posting the 3rd fastest time, but admitted that he had a challenge learning the car, having only being around the track in a stock car.

“I’m trying to get used to the corner entry is the biggest thing for me right now,” he said. “Helio and Will have been great teammates to help me get up to speed.”

Allmendinger has a few goals for this race as well.

I’m going to go out there and run up front, obviously Helio’s got a championship on the line and if I can help that I will, but its going to take me a lot more than me trying to help him. There is a lot of guy that have to finish in between him and Scott, especially if Helio wins the race.

Dixon is without his wingman and friend Dario Franchitti this weekend, but the team brought in Alex Tagliani to fill in for Franchitti as he recovers from his injuries. Tagliani is once again fighting for his career, but views that helping Dixon is the most important thing tonight.

Right now, I’m just focused on the race and helping Scott.

Last years race came down to late battle between Ed Carpenter, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani and Takuma Sato with Carpenter pulling off a last lap pass coming off of turn 2 as the yellow flag flew.

Auto Club Speedway is a very bumpy track, although the bumps on the backstretch were smoothed out after the testing season held last month. The main issue that caused a couple of incidents during practice that damaged the cars of Pippa Mann and Takuma Sato. The same incident is what took Will Power out of the race in last season’s race, which ultimately cost him the championship.

With temperatures being 20-25 degrees cooler, the track will be completely different from last years race. Temperature affects the grip level, brake temperature, engine temperature… anything you can think of. Also as the night falls, the grip levels will change. Firestone has also brought a different tire compound to this year’s race as opposed to last years race.

Josef Newgarden noted that the bumps and seams is just something that the drivers will have to deal with.

They’re not great, but that is how Fontana is, it’s a tough track. It’s what makes Fontana, Fontana, it has character.

Oriol Servia, who ran at Auto Club Speedway in the CART series from 2000-2002 made an interesting point.

“They’re bad, but to be honest it’s not the seams, it’s the paint used to cover the seams. It was different 5 or 6 years ago. If the paint wasn’t there it would be different. Yeah, the seams were always there but not the paint between them.”

Another storyline in the mix is Tony Kanaan and Dixon having a chance to win a $250,000 prize for winning 2 out of the three Fuzzy’s Triple Crown races. Also, Kanaan is in his last race for KV Racing as he moves on to Chip Ganassi Racing for next season.

It’s going to be an emotional day, leaving a friend [Jimmy Vasser] and a team I helped build and made me an Indy 500 winner.

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