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From the Marbles

What you need to know about the IndyCar season finale

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The Izod IndyCar Series season concludes Sunday at Las Vegas. Fortunately for race fans, it's not at the same time as the Sprint Cup race in Charlotte like the last race at Kentucky was. Unfortunately for sports fans, it's on during the NFL afternoon windows. (3:00 PM ET, ABC)

-- Yes, it's the final IndyCar Series race for Danica Patrick as a full time driver and no, she probably doesn't have a serious chance of winning the race. The top five favorites -- Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power -- drive for the two best teams, Penske and Ganassi.

-- Power trails Franchitti by 18 points and can't pass Franchitti if he finishes lower than sixth. This story is similar to last season, when Power brushed the wall in the final race of the season and Franchitti grabbed the title. Power needs luck on his side this year, and if Kentucky was any indication (the incident in the pits that cost him points wasn't his fault) it's still not.

-- Dan Wheldon is the only driver going for the $5 million prize for any non-regular driver who entered the season finale. Yeah, Wheldon kind of cheats the original rules because he won the Indianapolis 500, but he didn't participate in any other race in 2011 until Kentucky. To be eligible for the prize, he has to start at the back, and if he wins, he'll also split that with a fan to be drawn from entries taken on the IndyCar website.

-- The field of 34 is the largest of the season, meaning Wheldon will have to pass 33 cars to get to the front. Thankfully for his safety, one of them is not Milka Duno (who has taken her talents to ARCA) but that's also one more competitive car that Wheldon has to worry about. Just think, if the IndyCar Series does the promotion again next year, Danica will be eligible!

-- One of the main reasons the field is so large is that it's the final race for the current chassis. Next year will introduce IndyCar's version of the Car of Tomorrow and there will be three engine suppliers. Honda has been the sole engine manufacturer in recent years, and it'll be interesting to see if manufacturer competition will help heighten interest. Team Penske has already committed to Chevrolet while Target Chip Ganassi is staying with Honda.

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