Afternoon update from Fontana

Evening practice will get underway in about an hour at Auto Club Speedway.

It’s about 5:45 p.m. local time at Auto Club Speedway. Final practice for the MAVTV 500 gets underway at 7:15 p.m. Currently, the Verizon IndyCar Series teams are converting the cars from qualifying to race trim, eating dinner, and making final preparations for this evening’s half session. In the meantime, we’ll catch you up on a few happenings in the paddock.

Venezuela GP Lazarus driver Conor Daly is here making the rounds in Fontana. While Daly has been rumored to be in the running for an IndyCar seat for 2015, we hear that as things currently stand, he has very few prospects. And although you might not believe this, the issue is, wait, wait, money.

We caught with quite a few drivers after qualifying, and it seems many of the teams focused very little, if at all, on qualifying. Ryan Hunter-Reay used the word “sideshow," when talking about qualifying. His Andretti Autosport teammates James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti echoed similar sentiments.

Graham Rahal says the build up on the ACS track surface will be an issue tomorrow evening.

Graham Rahal noted that this morning’s 10 a.m. practice was essentially meaningless in that it corresponded in no way to this afternoon’s qualifying session where track temperatures were in the 140s.

Rahal also talked about the buildup on the track that AR1 has outlined in detail, and said that it was a concern for the cars. He joked, he “might not have enough tear-offs," to combat all the build-up.

One driver clearly unhappy after the qualifying session was KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais. The Toronto winner said the team was out of sorts during Wednesday’s evening’s test session and that while the balance on the #11 Hydroxycut Chevrolet was fine, the team was struggling to find grip. Suffice to say, the Frenchman does not seem confident going into tomorrow evening.

Young Josef Newgarden seems poised to score a breakthrough win.

On the other end of the spectrum is Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden. The Tennessee native noted that he thought his #67 Honda had a good shot at pole position going into the session And when a reporter asked about the 23 year-old American scoring a breakthrough maiden win, Newgarden said it’s “been time for a long to knock the fence post down." Maybe, the fence post gets knocked down tomorrow.

Before moving ahead, let me be clear: AutoRacing1 is in no way condoning or promoting such behavior. However, if you so happen to be inclined towards frivolous beverage consumption activities, I promise the phrase "tire degradation" will not disappoint tomorrow evening. Yes, it's going to be a race about managing tires; when they fall off; who can conserve them; who can find that ideal setup balance between a track with little grip and the downforce level that allows the tires to last over a stint. Numerous drivers told us that after qualifying. And we’ll probably know more after this evening’s session.

Helio Castroneves with girlfriend Adriano has looked relaxed so far this weekend.

While I have nothing concrete to offer other than what I've seen since arriving yesterday, Will Power does not look relaxed with the championship on the line. After the Aussie qualified a perplexing 21st (his teammates are 1-2), he noted something to the effect that qualifying at the back was better than the middle, because at the back he could better avoid trouble. Teammate and pole sitter Helio Castroneves, who looks very relaxed and focused, joked something to the effect, "he got his wish."

One quick note: With the Manufacturers’ Championship secured all 10 Chevrolet entries changed engines this weekend.

We’ll have more later.

Brian C. reporting from Auto Club Speedway.

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