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Less than 24 hours after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, Will Power got his chance to celebrate.

Power, along with other drivers, teams and manufacturers, were recognized during the IndyCar Championship Celebration at Club Nokia at the LA Live entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., presented Power and team owner Roger Penske with a $1 million championship bonus check and replicas of the Astor Challenge Cup, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship trophy.

"It's still sinking in, really," said Power, a first-time series champion. "When you want something so bad for so long, it's such a relief when you finally get it. It's exactly that – a culmination of 15 years of hard work to get to this point."

In addition to the championship bonus, Power accepted the Jostens Champions Award, a ring valued at $10,000. He also won the Sunoco Diamond Performance Award and its $75,000 prize for winning the most races and the Verizon P1 Award for scoring the most points among pole winners.

Matt Jonnson, chief mechanic for Power's No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, accepted the Verizon IndyCar Series Chief Mechanic of the Year Award. Jon Bouslog of Team Penske accepted the Team Manager of the Year Award.

Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport - HVM accepted the $50,000 Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, while Jack Hawksworth won the Tony Renna Rising Star Award.

Charlie Kimball claimed the $25,000 TAG Heuer "Don't Crack Under Pressure" Award for advancing the most cumulative places during the season. Juan Pablo Montoya was voted favorite driver by Verizon IndyCar Series fans.

Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, accepted the manufacturer's award on behalf of Chevrolet.

Helio Castroneves of Team Penske was honored as the second-place finisher in the championship while Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was honored for finishing third.

Highlights of the IndyCar Championship celebration will air on NBCSN on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at at 10:30 p.m. Eastern, immediately following the re-air of the MAVTV 500.

Verizon IndyCar Series award winners:

Championship driver (Astor Challenge Cup): Will Power
Jostens Championship Driver Award (ring): Will Power
Championship team (Astor Challenge Cup): Verizon Team Penske
Championship team sponsors: Verizon
Championship team manager: Jon Bouslog
Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Matt Jonnson
Sunoco Diamond Performance Award ($75,000): Will Power
Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award ($50,000): Carlos Munoz
TAG Heuer "Don't Crack Under Pressure" Award ($25,000): Charlie Kimball
Second place championship driver: Helio Castroneves
Second place championship team: Team Penske
Third place championship driver: Scott Dixon
Third place championship team: Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Tony Renna Rising Star Award: Jack Hawksworth
Verizon P1 Award: Will Power
Manufacturers Championship: Chevrolet
Dan and Susie Wheldon "Make a Difference" Award ($1,000 charitable donation): Susie Wheldon
Verizon IndyCar Series Fan Favorite Driver: Juan Pablo Montoya

Honda logo

Honda open to customer teams in 2016

Honda is open to supplying customer teams in Formula 1 from 2016, after confirming it will be exclusive McLaren partners for just one season.

The Japanese manufacturer is returning to F1 for the first time since 2008, having been attracted back thanks to the introduction of the new turbo V6 engines.

Honda's deal with McLaren has guaranteed the team exclusivity of the power units for the first season, and its motorsport chief Yasuhisa Arai (LEFT) has clarified plans for 2016 and beyond.

"In 2015 we don't have the plan to supply any team other than McLaren," he said in an interview with the official F1 website. "In 2016 or after, if some teams or partners ask us to supply them too, we will take a look at that situation.

"But even in 2016, McLaren will be our main partner in F1. And even if we supply other teams from 2016 onward our main focus will always be to win – to make the engine better through more data – and not necessarily to look at a return on investment. If you win, that comes automatically."

Arai is adamant that Honda's development plans for next year are on course, and that he fully expects it to be winning races from the off.

"Formula 1 is a very important part of our strategy and winning is very important for Honda," he said. We want to raise the awareness of our brand and I trust – I am a firm believer – that we will win races next year."


McLaren had been looking at the possibility of giving the new Honda engine a first run in its car at the post-season Abu Dhabi test this year. However, Arai says that there are no plans for it to hit the track until the first tests of next year.

"In the next couple of weeks we will run simulations and at the beginning of next year we will start to run on the track, very likely at Jerez," he said. "That will very likely be the first time to show the whole car, the Honda engine and the McLaren chassis – the Honda McLaren. Right now, there are no plans to collect data during the rest of 2014. Jerez will be the first time."


Tony Kanaan wins his first race after replacing his friend Dario Franchitti at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and the two speak with The RACER Channel's Robin Miller afterward at Fontana.


Power champ

The RACER Channel speaks with new Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power after the Team Penske driver earned his first title Saturday night at Fontana.

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Tony Kanaan, who dominated Iowa, looked a strong threat to Team Penske at Pocono and who has just completed his first season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, ended 2014 with a flourish when he dominated the final two stints of the MAVTV 500 to take his first win for the No. 10 that his friend Dario Franchitti made so famous over the past five seasons. Kanaan generously dedicated the victory to the retired four-time champion.

“I told Dario, ‘I hope you feel a big part of this win, too,’” said Kanaan.

"We had a team meeting this afternoon and Chip says, 'If you win the last race you get brag about it for seven months.' So, I went ahead and did it.

"Great team effort, 1-2. Great pit stops. The boys did great and what an awesome feeling man. It's been a long time coming. We had close calls this year and I'm just glad."

Kanaan also graciously refrained from donutting, and left that to the new Verizon IndyCar Series champion…


Down the road at Team Penske, there was joy for the title-winner Will Power, and disappointment for Helio Castroneves. The Brazilian polesitter didn’t lead the first lap – that honor went to Juan Montoya, who had the strongest of Penske’s three cars tonight – but did lead the second. Meanwhile, Power made slow but steady progress from the back of the grid.

However, Castroneves never appeared to have a car with which to dominate, and first Montoya, then outgoing champion Scott Dixon demoted him to third. After the first round of pit stops, the three-time Indy 500 winner’s fortunes took a further dive when he emerged in fourth, behind James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport, while Power was up to 12th.

From that moment on, Power kept climbing and Castroneves never looked able to put enough cars between him and his Aussie teammate, who entered the race with a 50 point lead in the championship in terms of the championship. Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay took turns in the lead, but were neutered by a drive through penalty for speeding on pit-entry for the former and a spin for the latter coming out of Turn 4 on lap 175.

"I was pushing really hard on old tires under Tony Kanaan for second and the car just came around on me - just snapped completely and we went a lap down," groaned the 2012 champion who benefited from a similar incident by Power two years ago at this track. "I thought I had some suspension issues on the rear, which ended up just being flat-spotted tires from the spin. We never got our lap back, so that's where we wound up. It's unfortunate because the DHL car was good tonight... Another one got away."

Amazingly, the subsequent yellow flag period was the first of the night. Even more amazingly, was the boldness with which Power surged into the lead to earn a bonus point when the green flag flew at the start of lap 188, a payoff that helped balance the fact that running the low line was hurting his tires.

Kanaan, Dixon and then Carpenter made their way past the No. 12 entry as its handling went away. After the final stops, Castroneves, too, emerged ahead of his teammate, but incurred a drive-through penalty for a transgression as he entered the pits, putting two wheels into a no-go zone. That dropped him to 14th, a hole he was never going to get out of with only 30 laps to go.

On learning the news, Power drove a conservative race to the flag, dropping to ninth, but the big prize, which eluded him in 2010, ’11 and ’12 was finally his.

"I'm so mentally exhausted now. I'm just so exhausted. My hands are numb from holding onto the wheel so tight. Man, I want to be a lot more excited but I'm just so drained. That was just mega. I can't believe I won it."

"I never thought it was over. Just knowing how things have gone in the past. But when I took the lead, I thought 'This is good. I believe we've got a pretty good shot here.' When they said Helio got a drive though I said 'Hey, this is it. We can do this. We can win it.'"

Montoya, though, was top Penske of the evening, taking fourth place, ahead of Hinchcliffe (top Honda finisher) who recovered well from his penalty, and a strong under-the-radar performance by Takuma Sato for AJ Foyt Racing, similar to his drive at Sonoma.

"It was a long fast race! I couldn't believe only 1 yellow for 500 miles--it felt long," said Sato. "The ABC car was fast, we just needed a little more work in traffic. The car would lose a lot of grip and I struggled. When I had clean air it was pretty fast and I could catch people and then just chip away at them. It was a good race for us."

Ryan Briscoe, had an interesting race, in that he was often the fastest car at the end of a stint, having conserved his tires better than most, but he never cracked the top five, as he pitted with the others. Eighth was enough to seal a well deserved Rookie of the Year title for Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz.

Something that will probably get buried by the various other statistics of the night is that Scott Dixon's runner-up finish sent him up to third place in the final points standings - which gives Ganassi's Kiwi an astonishing eight consecutive seasons in the top three of the championship.

Castroneves, the outsider who fought a good fight and came up 62 points short, was as magnanimous as ever.

"I was pushing extremely hard. I knew the only way for us to get in front was through the pits and my ins and outs seemed to be working very well except for my last one and I got a drive though. So my bad.

"But well done, Will! You are the champ, man, good job. So, I hope the rate in his house doesn't increase now, because every time I go and sleep in his house he charges me. But at the end of the day, great season for Team Penske."

Click here for full results.

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Mikhail Aleshin sustained serious internal injuries in Friday night's wild ride at Auto Club Speedway but Dr. Terry Trammell said he was still fortunate to escape without more harm.

"Considering the viciousness and seriousness of the crash, he is in as good a condition as he could be," said Trammell, the orthopedic magician and IndyCar series traveling medical director. "He suffered serious chest injuries and underwent a procedure this morning but he's doing pretty well.

"I imagine he'll spend 5-7 days out here and then I'd like for him to spend a couple of weeks in Indianapolis."

The rookie driver from Russia spun up the track, collected Charlie Kimball and was launched into the Turn 4 catch fencing where he did a serious of gyrations before crashing back to the track.

His right-front wheel was ripped from his Dallara chassis and two sections of the fence were torn down as his car and Kimball's were destroyed.

In addition to his internal injuries, Aleshin also suffered a broken right collarbone, some broken ribs and a concussion.

tram"The tub (of the car) performed well," continued Trammell (LEFT), who visited Aleshin in Loma Linda Hospital. "I guess anytime somebody is hurt it could have performed better but it didn't break in half like (Alex) Zanardi's crash and it was an improvement over what happened to Justin (Wilson) here last year."

Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay applauded the car's integrity and wondered about a little adjustment to the safer walls.

"I went and looked at his (Aleshin) car and I was impressed how well it held up," said the 2012 IndyCar champion. "I just wish the SAFER walls were a few feet higher because I think that might help keep the cars out of the fence. There's nothing you can do in a crash like Ryan's (Briscoe) or Kenny's (Brack) because they climbed wheels but that extra height could help in a deal like Mikhail's."

The Holmatro Safety team got high marks from Sam Schmidt team manager Rob Edwards and IndyCar chief steward Beaux Barfield.

"Looking at Will Power's in-car camera you see a puff of smoke up ahead, the track light goes yellow, the safety trucks are rolling out and the yellow dash light is on in Will's car," said Barfield. "Our safety team gets criticized sometimes but it was nothing but perfection from start to the time they reached Aleshin's car."

082914 CAL BC 415923The two drivers with the best chance of winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship know plenty about angst and longing. Team Penske's Will Power took the series by storm in 2010, yet with three runner-up finishes over the past four seasons, the Aussie has spent far too many winters wondering what's been missing from his arsenal.

lat ge 14fon2029While Power has become the most recent face of championship heartbreak, he's a relative newcomer to the position. Within open-wheel racing, his Penske teammate Helio Castroneves has been the personification of runner-up disappointment for more than 15 years – a serial bridesmaid in Indy car competition.

His career has been defined by a constant ability to factor in championship showdowns without clearing the final hurdle. Since his Indy car debut in 1998, Helio's amassed four second-place finishes, two third-places and five fourth-place championship performances.

He's become the Buffalo Bills of IndyCar drivers – a perennial contender to reach the open-wheel Super Bowl – who lives to know the feeling of earning IndyCar's equivalent of the Lombardi Trophy.

The lack of an Indy car championship is the one glaring item missing from a resume that includes three Indy 500 wins. There's no questioning his greatness at Indianapolis; Castroneves has proven he's more than capable of beating the Field of 33, but coming up short across the span of an entire season has also defined Helio's career.

After finishing between second and fourth in the standings a staggering 11 times, Castroneves is faced with another runner-up scenario this weekend. At 39, he's in the twilight of his career, starting on pole going into tonight's 500-mile championship decider while Power is starting next to last, and is prepared for another showdown.

"I'm never giving up," he told RACER. "Even if you have the smallest chance, you never give up. I've lost many championships by only a few points, and I know we can win this championship by only a few points. We only need one more point than Will, is the way I look at it. It's special being on the same team with Will; I know he has the same car I have, and it's a good thing for the team because probably it's going to be one of us as the champion. This is going to be a healthy fight. Hopefully, if it's meant to be, it will be. I'll give 100 percent to do what I need to do, and we could also use some luck."

As much as Helio's record illustrates his lack of Indy car championships, it also reflects his status as one of the series' most consistent performers.

"It's something you always appreciate and it keeps me going," he said. "That motivates me – winning a championship – and I want to win it as bad as anybody. If you count the times I've been in title contention, we still have to close the deal. I appreciate being close so many times, but I come back every year to get the job done and now I have another chance to do it."

lat-levitt-sp-0814 11430Castroneves is the consummate teammate – he drives for the glory of the team and sponsors assembled by Roger Penske. Racing against Power is a secondary concern, yet adds another element of intrigue – especially with Power's struggles since last weekend at Sonoma.

Power's mastery of the Milwaukee Mile, pole at Sonoma Raceway and dominant performance during the early stages of the race gave every indication he had moved past the comedy of errors that plagued so much of his career. The first half of Power's 2014 must have felt like an ongoing drive-through penalty for speeding on pit lane became his go-to error, yet something seemed to change in recent weeks.

Steady finishes replaced Power's erratic results and he appeared to be locked into Championship Mode after Milwaukee. As simple as his spin in Turn 7 at Sonoma might have been, it heralded the return of the giant question mark that has followed him since 2010. As far as the calm and cool Castroneves is concerned, that question mark is welcomed.

"That's the unfortunate part for us at Sonoma," he said. "If we didn't have as bad of a race, we could have made a big improvement in the points, but when Will had his own problems...he's had a chance to learn a lesson. He had a chance to take it easy and finish the race, but maybe that's his pattern. He has some very good moments, and then he has some moments that are like, 'What did you do?' But he's still in a very good position."

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' Simon Pagenaud came into Fontana without carrying the same kind of baggage that burdens Castroneves and Power.

An IndyCar rookie as recently as 2012, Pagenaud spent one year in Champ Car in 2007 before turning his attention to sports cars, then returned to open-wheel competition in his late 20s and used all of his professional experience to bypass the usual learning curve. His blend of maturity and top-tier education while driving for Honda and Peugeot in high-tech prototypes has elevated the unheralded Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team to one of the major players in IndyCar during his brief tenure.

Pagenaud and his No. 77 Honda team turned a poor qualifying session at Sonoma into a podium finish, and without that comeback drive, the 30-year-old's championship aspirations would have come to an end in the wine country. As Power and Castroneves worry about how the title will be settled, Pagenaud left Sonoma pleased with the fact he has one more chance to upset Penske's plans for a championship celebration.

lat-levitt-fon-0814 01354"Quite frankly, I'm not exactly sure how we got there," Pagenaud said of his third-place run last Sunday. "My guys made excellent calls on strategy and this was a team result."

The team aspect of how the 2014 championship has played out is also an interesting theme. Despite their massive advantage in funding and overall resources, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport are chasing SPM in the standings, which is a testament to how much the SPM team achieves on a fraction of the resources enjoyed by the Big 3. With SPM serving as a noteworthy wedge separating Ganassi and Andretti from Penske, you could say Schmidt and Peterson's merry band of overachievers have already won, but Pagenaud isn't interested in token titles.

"We go to every race knowing that if we do our best, we can win," he added. "We don't consider ourselves less than the big teams; we have the best engineers, the best mechanics, the best managers – you name it, and we have all of the tools. It feels good to win against the big names, but we don't take satisfaction from doing things that maybe some people don't expect us to do."

Pagenaud has become a fixture in IndyCar's championship mix and, unlike the Penske duo he's chasing, he isn't heading into tonight's race questioning himself, with a monkey on his back, or personal demons to overcome.

Look for Simon to vie for championships throughout the rest of his career, and if it doesn't happen in 2014, there's little doubt he'll have Penske, Ganassi and Andretti drivers in his crosshairs next year.

"What do I have to lose?" he said "I don't have anything to lose, really. We go in with the approach to win, and if we win, we win. And if we don't, we don't. We need a little bit of luck, we need Will to have a bad race – I don't wish that on him, but I'm just being honest.

"And we have a really strong car and we race well, so why not plan to be champions? One thing I know is that if you go in planning to be OK with second or third, that's probably all you will achieve. We expect more from ourselves and so we won't set our goal any lower. Like I said, what do we have to lose?"


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21-year-old German driver Daniel Abt made the trek from last weekend's GP2 event at Spa-Francorchamps to Southern California with an eye to evaluate the Verizon IndyCar Series.

A veteran of GP2, GP3, and Formula Renault 3.5, Abt is like many other young European open-wheelers with a desire to move up to Formula 1. Yet with so few seats available and the incredibly high costs to drive for a backmarker, the relatively level playing field offered in IndyCar and reasonably affordable budgets inspired Abt to go on a fact-finding mission in Fontana, site of the IndyCar season finale.

"I've never been to an IndyCar race before, so that's why I'm here," Abt told RACER. "I wanted to grab the chance to get a feeling for it and to see it. I don't know anyone, and it's a bit different. For me it's just to get a feeling and it's an option I have in my mind, but before I can really make a decision, I have to get a feeling for the sport."

IndyCar's presence in Germany is minimal according to Abt, but thanks to his Hilmer Motorsport GP2 teammate Conor Daly (BELOW LEFT, with Abt), the young American has inspired his friend to look outside of Europe as a way to continue his open-wheel career. Driving for one of the lesser GP2 teams hasn't provided the momentum he needs to land in F1, which has also led to Abt's interest in IndyCar. And with experience racing against some of the young guns in IndyCar, he has a good feel for where he might fit on the grid if he joins the series next year.

2014FontanaMPruettFri82914 744a"The first thing for me was to see [Carlos] Munoz was my teammate in Formula 3, and I know his skill level compared to mine," said Abt, who is affiliated with energy drink giant Red Bull. "That was the first time I thought it would be a good option. Formula 1 was always my dream; that's why I do Formula 3, GP2, GP3, but at the moment, it's very locked in.

"I'm not sure it's still the right way to go and the thing I really want to do. You can always bring some money and drive for Caterham, but is it worth it just to be called an F1 driver? I don't think these guys are having fun, or if that's the dream I've always wanted. I'm 21 one now and need to figure what makes sense."

Abt is the son of famed Audi tuning specialist Hans-Jurgen Abt whose family races in the DTM and will also field a pair of entries in the inaugural FIA Formula E championship. While transitioning to Germany's top racing series is an option, and driving for his father in Formula E will be interesting, Abt gave the impression he'd like to continue at the highest levels in open-wheel instead of being resigned to the DTM at such a young age.

"I could do the DTM, of course," he noted. "It's a great series and [you're] getting paid well as a German driver, but I'm not sure it's the right thing for me. DTM, I know everybody, all the tracks, it's great racing, but it's not so exciting as coming to California to see something new like this."

The challenge of a new series, new tracks, and learning oval racing intrigues Abt, and after being introduced to numerous IndyCar team owners by Daly this weekend, he knows making the switch would involve a steep learning curve on ovals. Based on Munoz's inspiring performances at the Indy 500 and his podium last month at the 500-mile Pocono event, Abt knows it can be done.

"[Oval racing] looks a lot easier from outside the car, but it's a lot more than that," he acknowledged. "I've never done that. Of course, if I do this step to IndyCar, that would be the biggest challenge."

Kimball-damageA sizeable crash involving three drivers brought an early end to Verizon IndyCar Series night practice at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca.

Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball and Mikhail Aleshin were involved in the turn 3 incident, with Aleshin’s No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda receiving the brunt of the damage. TV cameras showed a section of the fence had been ripped away and a wheel from a car – possibly Aleshin’s – left stuck in the fence.

Aleshin spun while approaching Scott Dixon, who was on the apron headed towards pit lane. As the Russian rookie’s car moved up the track, Kimball, who was running at full speed, had nowhere to go and hit the SPM car. The No. 7 climbed the barrier, hit the fence, and rotated numerous times before landing.

The front of both cars were tattered. Andretti slid to a halt as debris covered the track.

Kimball, who struck the side of Aleshin's spinning car at full speed, emerged without injury, but his No. 83 Novo Nordisk Dallara DW12-Chevy sustained heavy damage to the front of the tub. His Ganassi Racing team is preparing the spare No. 83 chassis for the MAV TV 500 and will also install a fresh Chevy engine. Work is expected to be concluded by the end of the night.

"I saw [Aleshin] spinning and figured I'd either make it through the cloud of tire smoke, or we were going to have a pretty hard hit," Kimball told RACER. "I'm fine and I hope Mikhail's all right."

Aleshin was airlifted to Loma Linda Hospital complaining of pain in his right shoulder and right foot. It was subsequently determined that he had suffered fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle, a concussion and chest injuries. (Click here for a medical update on Aleshin.)


Video: The Great Cars III Issue

The Great Cars III Issue is on sale now. Click here for more information.


The Eagle Soars. Episode 2 of "Dan Gurney: All American Racer," presented by Bell.


The First 200mph Lap. Episode 5 of "Dan Gurney: All American Racer," presented by Bell.


Verizon IndyCar Series: News and views from Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett.

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