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Author: Mark W. Theisen
July 6th 2015 -      WEST BEND, WISCONSIN JULY 1, 2015:    The drivers and crews contesting the2015 Verizon IndyCar series are catching their collective breath this Independence Day Holiday weekend with a rare weekend off before heading into the final 5 races of the season to decide the 2015 series champion in what has been the most compact, in terms of length of season, in the series history.
     Since the Indianapolis 500 on May 24 the series has raced in Detroit; Toronto, Canada; Texas and California in races on street circuits, road courses and oval tracks in all types of weather that has produced an incredible 5 different winners in as many races and each race had a unique story behind it.
     The season’s only “double-header” was contested on Detroit’s Belle Island May 31st and June 1st, just a week after the 500, with each of the two races being its own entity.
     On Saturday May 31st, Carlos Munoz driving a Honda powered Dallara for Andretti Autosport survived the worst that mother nature can leash out upon a race course as he was ahead when a monsoon-like storm hit the island on lap 47 forcing series to call a halt to the race due to weather conditions which included lightning and pelting rain.
     The entire race was a wet, dry, wet dry affair from the onset and it was clear that whoever had the best timing when it came to pit stops to change to slick tires and then rain tires and vice-versa would come out on top and the engineers and crew chiefs for the Andretti group made the right calls in that Marco Andretti finished second to Munoz while Simon Pagenaud driving a Dallara Chevrolet for Team Penske finished third.
     “It was not the way I wanted to win,” said Munoz, the second year series driver who won for the first time in his short career.  “I wanted to win with all the laps complete, but I was pretty confident of the car and what it could do in the wet.  We had enough fuel to go longer but I’m happy for the win.”
     Sunday’s second race at Belle Island was another event in which rain entered the equation with conditions going from a rain shower and wet track to a slick surface, then dry with the racing overall very treacherous because of the constant changes to the track surface.
     Sebastien Bourdais gave KVSH Racing its first win of the season and his first since 2014 in Toronto by edging Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal in his Chevrolet powered Dallara race car.
     Bourdais, the only Indy car driver to win four consecutive championship in, what was then termed Champ Car, showed why and how he won those four titles by mastering the changing conditions to keep whatever challenger he had at bay to pick up his 33 win as an Indy Car driver.
     “I felt pretty racy at the beginning of the race and the car felt good, it was up to me to stay off the walls and makes no mistakes,” said Bourdais.  “after yesterday’s race and all our problems we bounced back real well and I’m’ happy for the team to see all their hard work pay off.”
     Texas Motor Speedway was the site of race 9 and before the teams made the journey to Texas IndyCar officials announced implementation of rear wheel guard panels to prevent cars from lifting off the ground as was the case in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The panels will be used at Texas, then at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and finally at Pocono Raceway, tracks that produce high speeds that could lead to cars getting airborne following an incident.
     Chip Ganassi Racing teammate’s, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan came back strong after being in the hunt for the win at Indianapolis only to falter late in that race to run strong and nearly dominate the 248 lap affair with Dixon winning for the second time in 2015 leading 97 of the 248 laps.
     Kanaan led 57 to finish second while Helio Castroneves of Team Penske led only 7 laps but was in the hunt all day long to finish third followed by Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya and Marco Andretti.  The top five were the only drivers that Dixon did not lap in route to his 37th series win.
     The next aero package must have worked as one race saw only one caution flag for debris on the rack and resulted in a new track record speed for the race of 1819.940 miles-per-hour.
     The series crossed the border for race number 10 on June 14th with the running of the Honda Indy Toronto conducted on the 11-turn Exhibition Place street course and it was a banner day for CFH Racing as Josef Newgarden brought home the Hartman Oil Dallara Chevrolet in first place, for his second win of 2015 followed by his teammate on the road and street courses, Luca Filippi, for a sweep of the top two places by a team that is new in 2015.
     The independent teams of Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher with her partner Wink Hartman merged at the conclusion of 2014 and despite some very high “highs” and some incredibly low :lows” the team now has won twice in the span of three months as is poised for greatness with emergence of Newgarden as a true star in the series.
     Castroneves finished third for the second straight race with another of his Team Penske partners, defending series champion Will Power in fourth after winning the pole positon for the race.  The top nine finishers in Toronto were all powered by Chevrolet with Graham Rahal and Sato taking 9th and 10th place respectively for Honda.
     “I’m so happy we were able to get a win,” said Newgarden, “but a 1-2 is just amazing because Luca (Filippi) is such a star.  Just an amazing team effort.  I’m definitely excited to win here because this is Toronto and this is an IndyCar town.”
     Ed Carpenter, an owner/driver, who shares the car with Filippi, driving on the ovals while the later on the street and road curses was very happy.  “I’ve been pretty down since the performance of our team at Indianapolis and then Texas, but we knew we had strong street course cars all year long and today we proved that.  We executed all day long, both teams, and now we get to celebrate together.
     IndyCar teams got a week off between Toronto and the long trek to California where they were greeted by very high temperatures and that fact that they would have to race in daylight and for 500 miles around the two-mile track named Auto Sport Speedway in Fontana, California.,  the 11th race of the year.
     In order to try and combat the track temperatures and make the cars more controllable IndyCar officiated for additional downforce that produced the kind of white-knuckle racing that was part and parcel of the series for serval years.
     After 6 caution periods, 80 lead changes – series record – and 250 laps Rahal came away with his first series win since 2008 to give Honda its biggest win of the season.  Rahal was followed by Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Montoya and Sage Karam as the top 14 drivers finished on the lead lap.
     Several drivers commented after the race about the nature of the race and the closeness of the racing but the end result was one of the better IndyCar races in recent years.  It could have been different but these drivers sued their collective skills and made it a safe and entertaining race to watch.
     Through the stretch of 5 races Montoya has been able to keep control of the series point lead growing it to 46 points over his teammate Power.  Montoya sits at 407 while Power has 361.  Dixon is 49 back of Montoya in third, Rahal moved to fourth 73 markers behind and Castroneves rounds out the top five 77 points out of the lead.  Three of the top five drive for Team Penske.
     And if history repeats itself look for Montoya to shine for the rest of the year.  3 of the final 5 races are on oval tracks and that is what Montoya likes best.  Milwaukee, up next and then Iowa are short ovals that he has had success on and he is the defending champion at Pocono.
     The series ends August 30th at Sonoma, California, a road course at which time double points will be awarded.  Montoya calls that the “wild card” in the chase for the championship and he would like to be comfortably had by the time that race comes.
 The final five races:
Milwaukee July 12th
Iowa July 8th
Mid-Ohio August 2nd
Pocono August 23rd 
Sonoma August 30th.

Talks continue with Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for a date on the 016 IndyCar schedule and many think that will happen.  Could Wisconsin get two dates in 2015, many say it hinges on the success of the upcoming event on the Milwaukee Mile, a Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile.  
Stay right here, when the 2016 IndyCar schedule is released we will have it.