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Author: By: Mark W. Theisen
August 10th 2014 -
     WEST BEND, WISCONSIN August 10, 2014:  It seems like it was just "yesterday" when I wrote about the start of the 2014 Verizon Indy Car series in March at St. Petersburg, Florida and now the "whirlwind" series heads into its final three races of the season beginning this weekend at the famed Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.
    The schedule was designed to start and be completed before the National Football Season commenced and stole what little space in the sports pages that would be left for racing and to give the sport as much room as possible for coverage along the way and to that end it has succeeded but the compressed schedule has not been without its complications but the end result has produced the same exciting competition that was seen last season.
     Heading into Milwaukee 10 different drivers have visited victory lane in the 15 races conducted thus far including one first time winner in Carlos Huertas and Penske Racing teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves are locked into a tight point battle with Power holding a scant 4 point lead over Castroneves going into the ABC Supply 250 at the Milwaukee Mile next Sunday afternoon, April 17th.
     Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay sits 63 points behind Power in third, Simon Pagenaud is 68 behind the leader and the third Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya rounds out the top five 101 points behind leader.  One would think it is a two-horse for the title but the wild car is the double point paying season ending race in Fontana California on Saturday August 30th.  Bad luck by the leaders in that race could throw any of the top five back into the mix.
     In between Milwaukee and Fontana will be the final road course race of the season, August 24 in Sonoma, California.
     Since the Indy 500 Power and Castroneves were victorious in the Chevrolet Indy Dual races at Detroit, Michigan'™s Belle Isle race course.  On Saturday Power beat Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan to the finish line while on Sunday June 1st it was Castroneves ahead at the finish over Power and Charlie Kimball.  At this juncture Hunter-Reay saw his point lead coming out of the Indy 500 win vanish.
     Ed Carpenter drove a masterful race the following Saturday night, June 7th to win the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in exciting fashion as a late race caution saw Power make a pit stop for new tires to drop him to the last car on the lead lap only to come back to close within a quarter of a second of Carpenter, who chose to stay on old tires.  One more quarter of a lap and the win would have been Powers but he ran out of time and Carpenter avenged his Indianapolis 500 woes to record his first win of 2014 ahead of Power and Montoya.  Pagenaud and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five in the race.
     Next up on the 2014 schedule was the double header in Houston, Texas, a date that had been circled on the calendar by the teams since the event was moved to the June date for this year.  The reason for the concern was the oppressive heat that Texas and Houston feature in the summer.
     It was warm but not as hot as it could have been on Saturday June 28th and an Indy Car rookie driving for the small Dale Coyne Racing team stretched his fuel as far as he could propelling Huertas to his first series win ahead of Montoya and Andretti Autosport driver, Carlos Munoz.  The three drivers all hail from Colombia and thus a sweep of the podium for the Colombians.
     Race number two in Houston Came on Sunday June 29th and it was Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin taking the top two spots followed by rookie Jack Hawsksworth of Bryan Herta Autosport in third as two small teams kept the big three Indy Cars off the podium in Verizon Indy Car racing this day.
     Next up was the second double points paying race of the season, the Pocono 500 in Pocono, Pennsylvania and that event saw the return of Montoya to victory lane in an Indy Car race after nearly 14 years.  Montoya last won in an Indy Car at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois and has since spent his time in Formula One and NASCAR before return to Indy Car this year.  The win brought Montoya into the point'™s race along with his other Penske teammates as well as Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud.
     Hunter-Reay picked up a win that should have gone to Kanaan in the Iowa Corn Indy 300, the next race on the schedule.  Kanaan let 247 of the races 300 laps yet being on old tires the final 53 laps cost him the race as Hunter-Reay's Andretti Autosport made the call to pit him if a caution came out with 15 laps or less remaining.  When Montoya crashed with 20 laps left the call came and both Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden pitted. The pair finished first and second as the correct call was made by their teams.
    Toronto was the site of the third and final double header weekend of the season and saw Sebastien Bourdais win his first series win in nearly seven years on Saturday while Mike Conway won his second of 2014 in the Sunday race which was the third series win for Ed Carpenter Racing a small team that opted to have Conway drive the car on road and street courses and team owner, Carpenter, driving on the ovals.  Conway endured two horrific crashes as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and decided to walk away from ovals; Carpenter never had much success on road and street courses.  The pair united and the unique arrangement is working masterfully.
     It took fourteen races for 2013 Verizon Indy Car champion Scott Dixon to win his first race of 2014 and did so convincingly on August 4th at a track that he has much success in the past, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
     Staring last because of a miscue in qualifying, Dixon steadily worked his way through the field yet it was a mistake by Newgarden'™s crew on his final pit stop that enabled him to continue his dominance at Mid-Ohio.
     Newgarden seemed en-route to his first Verizon Indy Car win but suffered a terrible final stop being called into the pits for his final stop too late to have the crew assemble in time for the stop.  The result was a longer than usual stop that dropped Newgarden to far back in the running to make a run for the win.
     Bourdais finished second followed by James Hinchcliffe as Dixon won for the fifth time in 8 years on this race course.
     The stage is now set:  one short oval, one road course and one superspeedway to determine the 2014 Verizon Indy Car champion.  Neither Power nor Castroneves have ever won an Indy Car title, both have let them slip away in the final races of there chance years.  Will it happen again or will Penske racing finally return to the top of Indy Car racing.
     We will see in three races.
     Good seats remain for the Milwaukee Indy Fest.  Go to their web-site for details and pricing.