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Fresh engine update issued prior to IndyCar at Fontana, and it’s complicated

Oct 17, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves AP

INDYCAR has issued a fresh engine update in advance of this weekend’s season finale, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

And fair warning in advance: you’ll need a spreadsheet to comprehend how this will all work as it pertains to the five-engine maximum each car is allotted for the season without penalty.

There are 16 of the 25 cars entered that are on their fifth and final allotted engine before exceeding the max.

Those are:

  • Andretti Autosport: Ryan Hunter Reay (No. 1), E.J. Viso (No. 5), Marco Andretti (No. 25), James Hinchcliffe (No. 27)
  • Panther Racing: Oriol Servia (No. 4)
  • Dragon Racing: Sebastian Saavedra (No. 6), Sebastien Bourdais (No. 7)
  • KV Racing Technology: Tony Kanaan (No. 11), Simona de Silvestro (No. 78)
  • Team Penske: Will Power (No. 12)
  • Dale Coyne Racing: Justin Wilson (No. 19)
  • Ed Carpenter Racing: Ed Carpenter (No.. 20)
  • Schmidt Peterson/Hamilton Motorsports: Tristan Vautier (No. 55), Simon Pagenaud (No. 77)
  • Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing: Charlie Kimball (No. 83)

Assuming none of those 16 would need to change engines prior to the start of the race Saturday night, you could figure those would be the top 16 starters in whatever order. Add a 17th to that list too, with Team Penske’s third car, AJ Allmendinger, on only its third engine as a part-time entrant.

However, Saavedra’s change to his fifth came before the fourth engine was mileaged out. That means the Dragon Racing driver will join these five other drivers with guaranteed 10-spot grid penalties looming after their qualifying efforts on Friday:

  • Team Penske: Helio Castroneves (No. 3, sixth engine)
  • Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon (No. 9, sixth)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises: Takuma Sato (No. 14, sixth)
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Graham Rahal (No. 15, seventh)
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing: Josef Newgarden (No. 67, sixth)

The above five drivers are also ineligible to score manufacturer’s points because they are on their sixth or worse engine. Joining them in this category are the remaining runners we haven’t mentioned thus far:

  • Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Alex Tagliani (No. 10, eighth)
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: James Jakes (No. 16, sixth)
  • Dale Coyne Racing: Pippa Mann (No. 18, seventh)

This will basically mean two things. Any of the cars ineligible to score manufacturer points can’t have a win of theirs count toward the Manufacturer’s Championship.

Secondly, this is the single least important qualifying session of the season because you’re going to have a final starting grid drastically different than the qualifying times. A year ago, 14 of the 26 starters took grid penalties for engine changes (Castroneves, Power, Dixon, Rahal, Kimball, Sato, Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay, Wilson, Newgarden, Pagenaud, de Silvestro, Tagliani and Wade Cunningham).

So long as the fastest qualifier is someone who doesn’t do an engine change and isn’t ineligible for manufacturer points, it’ll be perfectly understandable… mostly.

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