Commentary Open Wheel


Indycar_Power_Rankings_logoThroughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Helio Castroneves’ first win in 54 races could be taken in one of two ways. It could be viewed as a serious title contender effort, or it might be looked upon as a desperate attempt to win a championship in the autumn of a career. While yours truly will be taking attention away from the latest Big Board, one fact is on the table. The Brazilian is just one of three other drivers in the Captain’s camp who appear to have top of the points table potential.

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske (Unchanged)

Castroneves’ first fence climb was a pleasure to see; however, solid drives from Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud were not overlooked. Hence the reason they stay at the top for another week.

2. Chip Ganassi Racing (Unchanged)

Scott Dixon salvaged what was a watered down effort at Iowa by placing eighth, surprisingly ahead of his teammate Tony Kanaan, who via the eye test had the stronger performance.

3. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Unchanged)

Traffic trouble dropped Graham Rahal down the list late in the going Sunday, but another top-five means RLLR stays put as best of the rest behind Penske and Ganassi.

4. Andretti Autosport (Unchanged)

Ryan Hunter-Reay was in contention for a fourth Iowa Corn 300 triumph but was too far back to threaten either Castroneves or second-place finisher, J.R. Hildebrand. Beyond that, however, Iowa was a nightmare for the rest of the quartet. Alexander Rossi (11th), Takuma Sato (16th), and Marco Andretti (17th) were in M.I.A. mode on Sunday.

5. Schmidt Peterson Motorsport (+1)

Another early exit from Mikhail Aleshin on an oval track, yet James Hinchcliffe did manage to place tenth. Compared to DCR, enough to trade places heading to the Mayor’s home race in Toronto.

6. Dale Coyne Racing (-1)

Esteban Gutierrez kept his nose clean and even managed to run among the top-ten in the latter stages before fading to 13th at the checkered flag. Ed Jones looked promising after qualifying fourth, but plummeted at the start and never recovered en route to settling for 18th. Judges dock the Windy City Boys one spot this week.

7. Ed Carpenter Racing (+2)

J.R. Hildebrand used on-track savvy and good pit luck to take runner-up honors on Sunday. While that’s the basis of ECR’s jump two rungs this week, the perils of team boss Ed Carpenter this season on ovals is a head scratcher. 12th at Iowa and only one top-ten in four tries have to be viewed as a major disappointment.

8. Harding Racing (-1)

Inactive until Pocono, but could not keep them at seven, based on what was achieved by Hildebrand at Iowa.

9. A.J. Foyt Racing (Unchanged)

Cannot say many good things after Iowa. Two cars in the fence and another large repair as the team makes its way to Canada.

10. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (=)

Season’s over, but 2018 Indianapolis 500 could be promising if the team continues the same course with Sage Karam. The driver-squad pairing seems perfect for one-off outings.

Driver Rankings

1. Scott Dixon (+1)

Overcame a sub-par effort in time trials Saturday, to escape with another top-ten finish. Reluctantly, the Kiwi remains on the number one line, but watch out for Spider-Man.

2. Helio Castroneves (+2)

If this is indeed his final campaign as a full-time IndyCar participant, he is going out with his best output in years, which is not a bad way to go out.

3. Josef Newgarden (-1)

Saturday’s sub-par outing in time trials put the squeeze on the Tennessee-native a bit, yet he still managed to make an impact, coming home in sixth. A former winner at Toronto, so he could be a major player next weekend.

5. Simon Pagenaud (-1)

Qualified well, but rarely made much progress toward the front at Iowa. As a result, seventh was the number at the finish.

4. Will Power (+1)

Another Verizon P1 Award, but was outclassed by his teammate Castroneves from the start of the 300-lap distance on Sunday. Still, a fourth is a good effort for a driver not known for oval track prowess.

6. Graham Rahal (Unchanged)

The Buckeye Blaster posts a top-five at Iowa. One more and he should turn up in the first five of the driver poll too.

7. Alexander Rossi (+1)

11th was the best Rossi could manage on Sunday as he was never happy with the handling at any point.

8. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Unranked)

RHR is NOT the 14th-best driver in IndyCar. Ignore the points standings placing and scratch the DNFs when comparing the DHL Honda pilot to the remainder of the IndyCar field. Third at Iowa is closer to what is the norm for this guy.

9. Tony Kanaan (Unranked)

Deserved better than a ninth-place finish at Iowa, so we made amends and placed him back in the top ten this week.

10. Max Chilton (Unchanged)

We have given the Englishman another chance after dropping back to 14th late at Iowa. Should bounce back in Toronto.

Dropped Out: Takuma Sato (Was No. 7 after Road America), Ed Jones (Was No. 9 after Road America)


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By Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

A major follower of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Matt has attended six previous Indianapolis 500s and rates Tony Kanaan's long awaited victory in the 2013 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as his favorite memory.

Outside of following auto racing, Matt is an avid fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletics program and can often be seen at home games throughout the season or running the audio controls on several ND-related radio programs. A native of Springboro, Ohio, Matt now resides in Mishawaka, Indiana.