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IndyCar Open Wheel

Power Wins Iowa Corn 300 Pole Position Handily

NEWTON, Iowa (Saturday, July 8, 2017) – As strong as he normally is in Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying, Will Power doesn’t usually need the added advantage of being last in the qualifying order – when track conditions are typically best – or the benefit of seeing how his Team Penske teammates perform before him.

With the bonus of drawing the last spot in today’s Verizon P1 Award qualifying for the Iowa Corn 300, Power was not to be denied. The 36-year-old Australian blitzed the field to earn the 48th pole position of his 13-year Indy car career, with a two-lap speed average of 185.210 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The 2014 series champion will lead the grid to the green flag for the fourth time this season on Sunday.

“It’s just about hard work and bringing out your raw speed when you need it. I love qualifying,” said Power, who closed within one pole position of tying Bobby Unser for fourth on the all-time Indy car list. “It’s the part of the weekend where you push and give everything you can possibly give.”

IOWA CORN 300: Qualifying results

Power’s two-lap average was 1.4 mph faster than the second-place qualifier, Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand. It marks the second pole on Iowa Speedway’s fast 0.894-mile oval for Power and the third straight at the track for Team Penske, whose 252 Indy car poles are the most of any team in history.

“It was definitely nerve-racking when I watched my teammates’ data because you can watch it live on the (pit) stand and they were having big spikes of oversteer,” said Power, who looked on as Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves qualified ahead of him in the line. “We were thinking we didn’t run enough downforce, but the track came in a little bit and we watched Helio’s run – it was really solid – so I knew we’d be thereabouts. Really, really happy for the Verizon car to be on pole.”

No Iowa pole sitter has gone on to win the race in 10 previous Verizon IndyCar Series events at Iowa, and Team Penske has yet to win a race at the track.

Hildebrand’s career-best qualifying effort of second was impressive as well, considering the 29-year-old Californian crashed in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet during morning practice. Uninjured save for bruised knees, Hildebrand nearly lost the car in the same spot in Turn 2 on the first lap of his qualifying attempt, but saved it and completed the run.

“We certainly came in here expecting that we could put the car in the front row, so I’m just sort of in a way relieved that we were able to recover from this morning and do that,” said Hildebrand, whose average speed of 183.811 mph came in the same chassis that Newgarden drove to victory at Iowa for ECR in 2016, leading an Indy car-record 282 laps.

“You obviously want to be able to capitalize on opportunities to get poles when they present themselves,” Hildebrand added. “Today certainly would have been one of those for us, but I think in the big scheme of things, we’ll certainly take a front-row spot. A lot of credit to the team to give me something to be confident to get back out there and push pretty hard.”

As with Row 1, the second row for the 300-lap race will consist of a driver each from Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing. Castroneves qualified third in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (183.712 mph), with team owner/driver Ed Carpenter fourth in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet (183.503 mph).

Takuma Sato, winner of May’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, qualified fifth and was the top Honda with an average speed of 182.653 mph in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.

AJ Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz did not complete his qualifying run after spinning in Turn 2 and making light SAFER Barrier contact with the rear of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Munoz will start last in Sunday’s race, the 11th of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

Points leader Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske drivers Newgarden and Pagenaud suffered from being the first three drivers in the qualifying order, when the track was the most green. Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) qualified 11th, Newgarden (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet) qualified 16th after leading opening practice and Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Honda) was 17th.

The 11th annual Verizon IndyCar Series race from Iowa Speedway kicks off with live coverage on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network starting at 5 p.m. ET Sunday.  

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Will Power Focused on Gaining Valuable Ground Through July

Although the year did not start off well for Will Power, he is right now riding a wave of momentum entering July, which could not come at a better time for the Australian.

The Team Penske driver had a rough beginning to his 2017 season, posting just two podium finishes in the first seven races on the schedule. However, after posting a third-place finish in the second Detroit event, he backed it up with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway, followed by a fifth-place finish at Road America.

“I would say it’s been good so far. We’ve been fast everywhere, had some great results,” Power told Popular Speed of his season. “I feel everything is going how it should right now. We’ve been strong everywhere, hitting on all four cylinders. It’s just about continuing to post the results.”

Now sitting fifth in the standings, 40 points behind Scott Dixon, the wave of momentum comes at a perfect time and could be used to gain valuable ground in the next couple of events. Last year, Power scored six straight podium finishes from Detroit to Pocono in August.

This coming weekend, he heads to Iowa Speedway, which treated him well last year with a runner-up finish. Confidence seems to radiate off of Power entering the event after running up front at all three oval events so far in 2017, including a pair of podiums.

“I feel good going into the race,” he said. “We had a really good result last year, and we have a really good car. It’s going to be a tough race; it always is. The short track races are always tough. You got to minimize mistakes, get good conditions, and be good in traffic. So yeah, looking forward to a good weekend there.”

The following week will see Power race on the streets of Toronto, Ontario, which he won last year’s event after leading 10 laps.

“Toronto has great memories from last year so feeling good going into the race,” he said. “It’s different every year. You have to watch your toes and be ready to make adjustments. They’ve changed the track a little bit, re-surfaced some areas so that the track will be slightly different. I’m honestly looking forward to it.”

Once again, confidence comes from Toronto being another street course like Detroit where he kicked off this string of success. Also, it’s a sight of success for Power, as he has won in Toronto on two different occasions, scoring a top-10 in each of his last four events.

“It’s a tough track,” he said. “It’s a great track for racing because there are spots to pass, but it’s (still) very difficult because there are so many different grip levels. You just have to read that stuff well and get the car set-up for it. It’s different every year, and you just have to get it all right on the weekend. There’s no secret recipe to success, to be honest.”

While Power continues to show his strength on the track, things have shifted away from racing, and wife Elizabeth welcomed Beau Power to the world in December. Power says the addition of his little boy has changed his life for the better.

“It’s been great each day,” Power said. “He comes to some of the races, but just a fantastic experience that’s different every day. He changes every day, learning something new and doing something different. It’s neat to experience.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Road America

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.

Whether Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America represented a shift in favor of the bigger, betterfunded organizations or not, one thing is for certain. Outside of two bad finishes on high-speed ovals, Scott Dixon has been the rabbit of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season to date. It is also apparent that our continued disrespect of Simon Pagenaud must end immediately. While the rankings committee has looked more at the end game scenarios, the Frenchman seems to be reverting to the form that bagged him the title in 2016.

Things are going smoothly for the above two options, but the same cannot be said for Will Power. There is no question that in a perfect world, the Australian is the best of the bunch on any road course one could face. The problem in 2017 is consistency. Team Penske swept the first two rows in qualifying; but in race trim, he suddenly found himself behind his three teammates.

So while the team rankings stay mostly untouched, the drivers top ten has seen some movement.

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske (Unchanged)

The Captain’s quartet did not grab the brass ring in Wisconsin, however placing four in the top-five is nothing to sneeze about. As noted earlier, Power’s hit or miss practices in 2017 is a head scratcher. If anything, Josef Newgarden should be the one doing that being in his first year with Penske, not the Aussie. As for Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, we are starting to get an idea that their title challenges are legit after all.

2. Chip Ganassi Racing (Unchanged)

Difficult to fathom that Dixon was minus a victory before Sunday, yet his consistency put him on top of the points table. One has to be getting nervous that the Kiwi now is adding P1s to his long line of top-fives. The Iceman was not alone though in the laurels of success. Charlie Kimball enjoyed his best effort of 2017 with a sixth-place finish, while Indy 500 top lap leader Max Chilton scored a ninth.

3. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (+1)

Yes, one is the loneliest number – unless you are referring to RLLR and Graham Rahal. For the third straight year, the No. 15 Steak N’ Shake Honda is shaming most of the giant fish in the IndyCar pond and once again is joining the conversation for another top-five result at season’s end.

4. Andretti Autosport (-1)

The weekend started bad and ended worse. Marco Andretti was unable to make the most of a good grid position and placed 18th. Contact with Tony Kanaan may have hampered Alexander Rossi’s 13th-place effort, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato were mired in the bottom half of the order throughout the proceedings. They are no longer a 1-A to Ganassi’s number official number one placement in the Honda camp. Thanks to RLLR they may not be the second in the queue either.

5. Dale Coyne Racing (+1)

If Road America form continues onward to Iowa and beyond, Ed Jones looks set to lead DCR back into the victory conversation started by Sebastien Bourdais at St. Petersburg. While winning one of the remaining events is not a lock, it would be far from a shocker for more or less the 2017 IndyCar Rookie of the Year.

6. Schmidt Peterson Motorsport (-1)

A top-ten finish for Mikhail Aleshin was well earned considering the Russian suffered from a lack of track time due to a visa snafu. James Hinchcliffe meanwhile, has undergone a complete reversal of fortune. After opening 2017 with three straight top-tens, the Canadian has just one of those placements since. With Honda starting to close in on trumping Chevrolet, Schmidt Peterson appears to have missed the depart time and has been left at the gate so far.

7. Harding Racing (Unchanged)

Inactive until Pocono, yet nothing from Carpenter or Foyt merits dropping them down the list.

8. A.J. Foyt Racing (+1)

Carlos Munoz deserved better than an eleventh-place output at Road America, but that pretty much explains the lack of competitive drive shown from this team and its pilots. 2018 cannot come soon enough.

9. Ed Carpenter Racing (-1)

Road course ace Spencer Pigot could not save the sinking ship and after multiple issues on Sunday, settling for 12th. Once again, J.R. Hildebrand made zero impact and came home 18th. If Iowa does not provide comfort, painful outcomes seem stuck to Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s home team for the remainder of 2017.

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)

People of New Zealand, we sincerely apologize. If there were any questions about the Kiwi’s ability to maintain his solid pace, those worries were silenced on Sunday. On to Iowa.

2. Josef Newgarden (+1)

Right now the pronunciation should be NEW-GUARD. The Tennessee-native has fit in well with Team Penske and appears capable of challenging for a championship in year one, much like Al Unser, Jr. did with success in 1994. Another Iowa tour de force will make his effort official.

3. Simon Pagenaud (+3)

We continued to doubt the staying power of the reigning IndyCar king and the Frenchman has continued to admonish us for doing so. Second in points and deservedly so.

4. Helio Castroneves (Unchanged)

The Brazilian squandered yet another front row start and settled for third at the checkered flag. While the results continue to keep him in the conversation, SpiderMan must find a way to end a 53-race losing skid.

5. Will Power (-4)

Well, our crystal ball premonition did not mean all that much. A fifth-place result is alright, but iffy when all his Penske counterparts finished ahead of him. Iowa on paper is not the place for a bounce back.

6. Graham Rahal (+1)

The Ohioan proves that a single-car team can still prosper, even when this same performer questioned whether that was still possible earlier this season. Four top-tens in a row headed to Corn City.

7. Takuma Sato (-2)

Just when the Japanese hero looked set to be a mainstay at the front of the IndyCar lineup, along came Elkhart Lake. The Kohler Grand Prix was a complete clunker for Sato, who never made a positive impact in qualifying or the race. Skeptics are returning to this conversation.

8. Alexander Rossi (Unchanged)

Unlike his Andretti compatriots, Rossi showed promise until his meeting with Tony Kanaan. While TK found the fence, the 2016 Indy 500 champion must have damaged his car as he faded outside the top ten in the final laps. Only a sub-par bottom half of the rankings keeps him in the top ten this week.

9. Ed Jones (Unranked)

The on the list, off the list syndrome for the Dubai-based entrant would come to a head if more consistency were present. Just a friendly suggestion while looking ahead to Iowa Speedway.

10. Max Chilton (Unranked)

We have a new customer! While the ex-Formula One racer has not set the IndyCar world on fire in 2017, he does have four top-tens in the past seven races. That’s something most in the full-time fleet cannot claim.

Dropped Out: Tony Kanaan (Was No. 9 after Texas), James Hinchcliffe (Was No. 10 after Texas)

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Fantasy Hot Tip: Road America

Things have changed considerably for yours truly in the Firestone Fantasy Challenge.

After jumping to sixth in my local league following the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, things have gone downhill since. Using a similar strategy where I loaded my roster with road course and oval track specialists, suddenly those same drivers started to struggle. Will Power was unable to find the winner’s circle at Detroit and Indy champion Takuma Sato also stumbled at Texas.

The result: I have dropped to ninth in the standings, and if things do not change soon, the plunge down the order will continue. So for the four-mile layout known as Road America in Wisconsin, new names are featured.

Gone is Power, a mainstay for most fantasy teams when the Verizon IndyCar Series turns both left and right. Simon Pagenaud, an equally potent challenger on these types of circuits, is also missing. I have likewise passed up another Team Penske driver in Helio Castroneves, who is a serious contender for the championship, but is riding a 50-plus race streak without a victory.

Of course, there is a fourth driver on the Captain’s squad who I have snapped up. Josef Newgarden has not set the world on fire in his first year with the famed organization, but he won at Alabama and did place fourth and second respectively in both races at Belle Isle. For now, that’s enough for me to play him.

Another sure fire pick is Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who heads to Wisconsin holding a 13-point lead in the battle for the series title. While Dixon has suffered through two didnotfinish efforts in his last four events, his record on road courses is much more on target as opposed to Power’s. In six road races 2017, the New Zealander has finished no worse than sixth in any of them, and despite failing to place first, the multi-time IndyCar champion has three runner-up finishes. This is a much more convincing record than Power can provide, who has four runs of a tenth or worse in those same six rounds.

With Newgarden and Dixon snagged, pick number three for Road America takes another look at Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, a driver who has continued to move forward from his victory in last year’s Indy 500. The ex-Formula One pilot has already matched his two top-fives output from last year, and has placed tenth or better in four of the six road courses events. While his fellow Andretti Autosport teammates have taken a few steps backward over the last few months, Rossi is currently ninth on the points table and could threaten the podium if he can amass a solid grid position on Saturday.

Finally, with a majority of my 100 dollar team cap spent, I have rounded out another road course lineup with Ed Carpenter Racing’s ringer Spencer Pigot. While the sophomore’s results have been 50-50 regarding great and iffy, the former Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires champion always seems to get the most from a team that is not known for prowess on these type of venues. For the last driver on a four-member fantasy group, that’s a good thing.

So we will if this quartet is the spark to inject life back into my hopes for a championship in my Firestone Fantasy Challenge League, or whether it is back to the drawing board once again.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Texas

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.

Will Power’s second career win at Texas Motor Speedway, leaves some questions to be answered. Was this a legitimate win? The Australian dominated, but was that due to a superior car or high attrition? Also, is this a reversal toward Chevrolet as opposed to Honda, who was ruled the recent winner’s circle appearances?

For now, Power gets the nod on our newest driver’s list, as last year’s surge for the Team Penske road course ace began at this point of the campaign.

Accordingly, the team rankings favor the Captain’s quartet likewise, a position they have held for several weeks, based largely on early season prowess on the non-oval layouts.

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske (No Change)

Along with Will Power controlling the proceedings, Simon Pagenaud also made the podium in third-place. Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves fell victim to the SAFER barriers on Saturday night, but that’s not the stuff to move them off the number one line.

2. Chip Ganassi Racing (No Change)

Not a friend-making performance Saturday night from Tony Kanaan, but a runner-up finish is not diminished in terms of championship points. Scott Dixon was on the verge of joining TK at the checkered, but settled for ninth after getting swept up in the race-ending incident. Disappointing performances for both Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball. The Englishman was not the front-running force he was at the Indianapolis 500 and placed eighth. Kimball meanwhile, looked solid after taking the Verizon P1 Award on Friday, only to drop-out soon after the start due to mechanical maladies.

3. Andretti Autosport (No Change)

Takuma Sato’s late-race collision prevented another possible podium finish, yet outside of that Texas was a “what might have been” effort. Marco Andretti did come home in sixth, but never made a serious impact. Ryan Hunter-Reay was eliminated in the big one, while Alexander Rossi’s three-wide foray early on led to him being the first arrival at the post-race party.

4. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (No Change)

Graham Rahal found a way to avoid the attrition that removed many from the Rainguard 600 on Saturday night, securing a fourth-place finish. Not quite the stuff to jump past Andretti in the poll, but if Rahal shows the pace from Detroit at Road America, that will change.

5. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (+1)

It is tough to say if James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin were contenders for the win on Saturday night, as of course the big mess ended the conversation. However, the glimpses of pace provides hope for the next few rounds.

6. Dale Coyne Racing (-1)

No matter who drives the No. 18 Honda, it seems to be a factor. Unfortunately, accidents at both Indy and Texas prevented Sebastien Bourdais, James Davison, and Tristan Vautier from getting the coveted result. Not a strong run though from Ed Jones; that’s the reason they drop a notch on the list.

7. Harding Racing (+1)

This organization is gaining confidence following a fifth-place result for Gabby Chaves at Texas. Two starts, two top-tens. Whether success continues at the team’s next race at Pocono is anyone’s guess, but they could be dangerous if they do go full-time in 2018.

8. Ed Carpenter Racing (-1)

Even before getting caught up in the eight-car pileup at Texas, neither Ed Carpenter or J.R. Hildebrand showed any signs of being able to win the race. Road America is not the place for a triumphant moment for this team, unless something bizarre happens, like the Earth falling out of orbit for instance.

9. A.J. Foyt Racing (No Change)

Sure, Conor Daly finished seventh, but based solely on survival. Once again, nothing positive shown by the Hoosier-native, nor from Carlos Munoz at Texas.

10. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (=)

Season’s over for DRR pending a surprise entry later this year. Still, its sister team Harding Racing is stealing the spotlight from some of the full-time regulars.

Dropped Out: None

Driver Rankings:

1. Will Power (+3)

Dixon has the better results to date, but intuition says the Aussie is ready to begin his championship challenge. Three of the next four events are road courses, and if Team Penske regains their muscle from a season ago, Power becomes a greater threat.

2. Scott Dixon (-1)

Time to temporarily drop the Kiwi down a rung this week. The momentum is not in the Iceman’s corner, at least not in Texas.

3. Josef Newgarden (No Change)

The big crashes have kept the Tennessean from snatching top-tens at both Indy and Texas, but the future projections put Newgarden ahead of both Castroneves and Pagenaud. Still, a ways to go reach Power, however.

4. Helio Castroneves (-2)

An early exit at Texas hurts, but the fact the Brazilian continues to squander front row starting positions on road circuits is a red flag. If he could not get the results consistently in the season’s first half, why would that change in the final eight? Based on that, Spider-Man loses two spots.

5. Takuma Sato (+2)

One false move near the finish at Texas cost the Japanese trailblazer a possible top-three effort. The big thing story though tells all; the Indy 500 victory was NOT a fluke. He goes up another two places on the list this week.

6. Simon Pagenaud (-1)

Third at Texas, second on the points table, but only sixth here? Pags has to improve his qualifying record on road courses to stay in the mix for back-to-back titles. Not only does the Frenchman give himself too much to do, but he puts himself in the line of fire in the mad mid-pack scrambles at the start. Sooner or later, smart money says an early exit based on that could result.

7. Graham Rahal (+2)

Rahal has an ability to finish the high-speed oval races in ways the rest of the IndyCar fleet cannot match, at least not over the past three seasons. If the No. 15 Honda matches the performance from Detroit, it could be a tough go for the field at Elkhart Lake.

8. Alexander Rossi (-2)

Rossi did not use good judgement going three-wide so early in the process at Texas, and was dealt a last-place finish as punishment. He should regain original placement if trouble does not follow to Wisconsin’s four-mile parkway.

9. Tony Kanaan (Unranked)

Far from a squeaky clean effort at Texas, yet TK made it to the finish and came away with a runner-up finish. The veteran though, is not a sign of strength on road courses and must re-invent himself next week to stay in the polls for more than one race.

10. James Hinchcliffe (No Change)

The Mayor showed glimpses of hope prior to his elimination at Texas; however, there are several candidates who could bump him out following Road America, including this week’s top-ten absentee Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Dropped Out: Ryan Hunter-Reay (Was No. 8 after Detroit)

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

What We Learned from Texas Motor Speedway 2017

The Big Picture:  Texas is a great market for the Verizon IndyCar Series. That’s a good reason for this race. Other than that, I don’t know why we are going to TMS. The crowds have always seemed sparse in the extreme for every running, the weather is awful, and the carnage of equipment is truly horrific.

Event:  And yet, this event continues to be held. There are fans and track owners who enjoy pack racing and the wrecks that occur. TMS is a 1.44-mile banked oval that was just repaved and re-profiled. Night races are genuinely exciting most of the time. However, the gate cannot be enough to cover the costs, and we don’t know who’s writing the checks.

Qualifying:  The best part of the weekend. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimble earned his first career pole. The top eight positions on the starting grid were filled by Hondas. The first Chevrolet was Will Power in ninth place.

Race:   Essentially, there were two races. For the first 151 laps, there was an entertaining, exciting, side-by-side. Then came Lap 152 and a crash that retired nine race cars in one fell swoop. There was a thirty-minute red flag period.  Then the event was different: car by car went out due to accidents. Will Power took the victory by passing Scott Dixon on Lap 243. He led a total of 180 circuits. It was his 31st IndyCar victory, tying him with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy in ninth-place for all-time series wins.

Biggest Surprise: That Tony Kanaan was blamed for The Big One. We know of few drivers more decent to others than TK. He’s well respected in the paddock and on the track. Kanaan is someone who we have never seen drive dirty. So, this news surprises us. We hope it either did not happen as they say or it will not occur again.

Biggest Disappointment: 60% of the cars did not finish the race. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment were ruined for no good reason. Friends, families, and fans had to wait to make sure their drivers were okay.

Best Team:  Chip Ganassi Racing won the pole, and three drivers finished in the top ten. Scott Dixon was the only car to have anything for Power but was taken out at Lap 244.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  The #12 Will Power car sponsored by Verizon gives the telecommunications company its second Sponsor of the Weekend recognition.

What We Learned:  Honda has put overall speed over reliability this season, making Chevy the Tortoise and Honda the Hare. IndyCar needs to either start reimbursing teams for wrecked chassis or find a way to make pack racing safer.

Schedule:  The Kohler Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI is in two weeks on June 25th.

Quotes of the Weekend:

“Tony’s one of the best guys in this type of racing, he’s a guy I went wheel-to-wheel with happily for the last 10 laps for the shootout and the win here last year. Normally he’s a guy I trust my life with in this kind of racing, but today he just wasn’t driving very smart and wasn’t driving very respectfully, and took out half the field.” James Hinchcliffe, Driver of the No. Five Arrows car as quoted by Autoweek.

From the series:

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion): “It was very much pack racing, so we were trying to get away from the pack, which we did for quite a while. It was a way also to save some fuel and stay behind (Will Power). I was trying to protect him so that we could just go as fast as we could, and it worked out really well. At the end there, I was hoping we were going to go a little longer because I had a really good car. It was a lot of fun. It got a little crazy at the end. I tell you, it is just incredible how close we can race against each other. Good fun, good night, awesome working with Will. That is Team Penske, we all work together, you guys don’t believe us, but we do and we showed it tonight.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “That was crazy. I think the biggest thing tonight is that I learned a lot. That was the first time ever on an oval that I raced side-by-side or that close to anyone. (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) we’re never like that and last year I didn’t make it through much of the race. It was a huge level of experience gain. We made progress on the car all the way through and on the last stint, I thought we were really in contention for a top five. We were right in the fight which was really fun. I’ve never experienced any racing like that in my life. Really enjoyed it. It was crazy to spin at the end, but we kept going, so overall just a nice day for us to make it through and survive. I think my guys did a great job – tonight was a lot of work in the pits – we were adjusting the car every stop so I have to thank them for all their work.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): “Well, the thing is I was much faster than the guys on the lower line. I thought we were all going to stay together up there, but I think James (Hinchcliffe) touched (Tony) Kanaan – I don’t know the reason for that – then we basically all crashed. I thought we could make it three lanes up there. I didn’t understand what was going on, because I gave space to them, but something was going on with James and Kanaan. In the end, you know, what we have is two great cars that ended up in the wall and that’s just dumb. It’s stupid and I’m very disappointed in regards to the shape of the team this weekend. We could have been in the top spot today.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News Open Wheel

Power Wins Wild One at Texas for 31st Career Victory

FORT WORTH, Texas (Saturday, June 10, 2017) – Will Power survived a Wild West night of racing at Texas Motor Speedway to win the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 and join a pair of greats on the all-time Indy car victory list.

The Team Penske driver won the incident-filled race on the 1.5-mile oval, taking the checkered flag in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet under caution ahead of second-place Tony Kanaan in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda from Chip Ganassi Racing.

RAINGUARD WATER SEALERS 600: Box score

The victory is the 31st in Indy cars for the 36-year-old Australian, tying him with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy for ninth all time. It is also his second win this season and second at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Over the moon to win here,” Power said. “My second home and my wife is from here, so we spend a lot of time down here, so just an amazing feeling.”

The frenetic Verizon IndyCar Series race featured 23 lead changes among seven drivers, though Power led a race-high 180 of the 248 laps. He won under the last of nine caution periods after four cars – including Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon battling for second place right behind Power – were involved in a crash in Turn 1 on Lap 244.

Power’s win is the ninth at Texas Motor Speedway for Team Penske and the legendary team’s record 191st victory in Indy car history.

“It was a matter of getting to the front,” said Power, who started ninth in the 22-car field. “We talked about that in our pre-race strategy meeting, that track position is going to be everything because I know whoever would have the lead and (stay on) the bottom of the track would be very difficult to pass.”

Kanaan finished second despite being levied a 20-second stop-and-hold penalty after being involved in the largest incident of the race. On Lap 152, Kanaan, Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin went three wide into Turn 3. The cars of Kanaan and Hinchcliffe touched, ricocheting Hinchcliffe into Aleshin and triggering a mishap involving nine cars. No one was injured.

The race was red-flagged for 30 minutes while the Holmatro Safety Team and track workers cleaned up debris. When the race was restarted, Kanaan went down two laps after serving the penalty, but clawed his way back onto the lead lap to secure a season-best second-place finish and his fourth podium showing in the past five Texas races.

“There was a bump going into Turn 3 there and I guess I moved up, and I really have to apologize to Hinch,” Kanaan said. “I don’t do those kind of things. I race people clean and I want people to race me clean. It was definitely an honest mistake.

“Got a penalty, paid a penalty and we finished second, so I guess it is what it is.”

For the final 90 laps of the race, INDYCAR mandated competition cautions after every 30 green-flag laps so teams could change tires to account for abnormal tire wear on some entries, due in part to the newly repaved track surface.

A statement from INDYCAR, read, in part: “This action has been taken out of an abundance of caution as race conditions presented different conditions than seen in earlier tests.”

Dixon retained the Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead despite finishing ninth after being collected by the spinning Sato on Lap 244. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver sits atop the standings after nine of 17 races with 326 points. Simon Pagenaud, who finished third in the race, is second with 313 points, Sato is third at 312, Helio Castroneves fourth with 305 and Power fifth at 286.

The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America on June 25. The race airs live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. 

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Commentary Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Detroit

 

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.

Graham Rahal’s clean sweep at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix last weekend has brought the No. 15 United Rentals Honda back into the top-ten of the driver rankings. Beyond that, however, only slight changes are present in both polls as the teams head to Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske (No Change)

Josef Newgarden’s pair of top-four results keeps Team Penske on top of the list for another week. It’s not that they are dominating the competition; instead, the fact remains no other team has shown capable of eclipsing them to merit top line consideration.

2. Chip Ganassi Racing (+1)

The Iceman has a short memory as the wild ride at the Indianapolis 500 was covered up by two top-six outings last weekend in Motown, good enough to Ganassi back ahead of Andretti Autosport this week.

3. Andretti Autosport (-1)

Takuma Sato backs up Indy 500 triumph, with two top-eight efforts, the second producing a Verizon P1 Award. Alexander Rossi also continues to cement his claim as a future title contender with a similar resume from the Motor City. However, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti were off the radar last weekend, forcing their drop behind Ganassi.

4. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (+2)

Oriol Servia started the wheels rolling in the right direction at the Brickyard, and Graham Rahal just took it to a whole new level at Belle Isle. The broom run across the board is rewarded with its highest ranking in 2017 so far.

5. Dale Coyne Racing (No Change)

Ed Jones managed a ninth-place performance on Saturday but had a day to forget on Sunday. Decent debut run for Esteban Gutierrez, with most importantly no major mistakes. Curious to see if Coyne gives the Mexican F-1 refugee another chance at Texas.

6. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (+1)

A pair of top-six placings by James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin on Saturday is enough for us to ignore Sunday’s misfortunes and give SPM back one of the notches they lost at Indy.

7. Ed Carpenter Racing (-3)

Whether ECR has an allergic reaction to road racing or not, Detroit did not emit confidence. Spencer Pigot squeaked out a tenth-place run on Saturday, but J.R. Hildebrand was largely a non-factor all weekend. Must rebound at Texas.

8. Harding Racing (No Change)

The team returns to action this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. If attrition mimics last year’s race, Gabby Chaves and company could perhaps leave with another top-ten result.

9. A.J. Foyt Racing (No Change)

Same song, second verse at Detroit. Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly’s nightmare 2017 tour continues. Texas is not likely to improve things much in the right direction.

10. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (=)

Season’s over for DRR pending a surprise entry later this year. Still, it’s sister team Harding Racing is expected to make at least two more appearances.

Dropped Out: None

Driver Rankings:

1. Scott Dixon (No Change)

A bum ankle and all, Dixon scores two solid finishes to regain the points lead, and more importantly, top our charts for another week.

2. Helio Castroneves (No Change)

A ho-hum showing for the Brazilian in Detroit, but at the same time, those behind him in the polls did not exude much regarding potential either. Based on that, Helio stays at number two.

3. Josef Newgarden (+3)

Leaving the Brickyard was the best medicine for the Tennessean, who puts himself back into the championship picture in Motown. Only Graham Rahal had a better week than this guy.

4. Will Power (-1)

A poor Saturday showing, was overshadowed by a solid Sunday effort that placed the Australian on the podium. Still, the writing is on the pit board; Power has underachieved in 2017.

5. Simon Pagenaud (-1)

Similar storyline to Power as Sunday improved significantly over Saturday’s output. Decent title defense so far, but grip seems to be weakening.

6. Alexander Rossi (+2)

Sophomore improvement continues to appear as opposed to a jinx. No. 98 NAPA Honda, producing a larger can of “Know How” every time it takes to the track.

7. Takuma Sato (+2)

Solid encore for the Japanese veteran at Belle Isle, with two more top-tens. Looking for another high finish in the Lone Star State.

8. Ryan Hunter-Reay (-3)

Detroit was a momentum crusher for RHR, who gives back the same three spots in the Motor City that he gained at the Indy 500.

9. Graham Rahal (Unranked)

Another second half surge for the popular Ohioan is definitely on the cards. Drove flawlessly to pull off the first double victory in the history of the Detroit Grand Prix.

10. James Hinchcliffe (Unranked)

Consistency is not yet where the Mayor would desire, but a podium showing on Saturday is enough to put the Canadian back on the list this week.

Dropped Out: Tony Kanaan  (Was No. 7 after Indy 500), Ed Jones (Was No. 10 after Indy 500).

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Penske Back On Its Wheels Following Motown

The 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 did not show what Team Penske’s potential.

Only one of the team’s five drivers managed to make the Firestone Fast Nine, and just two finished the 500-mile distance in the top-six. The efforts where not befitting of an organization that has won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing sixteen times. The view of possible weakness, however, has been squashed after Sunday’s second phase of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Led by Josef Newgarden, the Captain’s quartet placed three in the top-five at the checkered flag, a bounce back to the dominant form shown when the team claimed three straight wins at Long Beach, Phoenix, and the IndyCar Grand Prix. Then came the 2.5-mile oval, where early it became clear that a lack of horsepower provided by Chevrolet was an issue. Although a dramatic charge from Helio Castroneves salvaged a runner-up finish, Indy was a struggle.

Things started to change positively on Saturday morning at the Raceway of Belle Isle, as Castroneves took the outside of the front row and then rode the wave of momentum to second behind Graham Rahal. Although the Brazilian faded to 11th in Sunday’s second phase, the three-time Indy 500 champion is well within the range of championship leader Scott Dixon as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.

Castroneves’ performance so far in the 2017 campaign, shows that winning is sometimes an overrated statistic. Despite holding second in the championship standings, the Brazilian has yet to win a race. In fact, the veteran has gone 51 events since he ascended the top step of the podium in the second leg of the Detroit Grand Prix three years ago.

Defending Series champion Simon Pagenaud is next on the list entering Texas, on the strength of a victory and four other top-fives finishes to open the season. A 14th-place result in the Indy 500 derailed the run, but the Frenchman is back on the tracks following a fifth-place effort at Detroit on Sunday. Currently fourth on the points table, the pressure on the No. 1 Chevrolet pilot will be to make up ground as opposed to 2016, where he had to fend off pursuers.

Newgarden currently ranks sixth heading for the Lone Star State, a decent showing in his first year with Team Penske. The Tennessee-native has scored top-ten results in all but the two rounds at Indianapolis to date, where speeding penalties and a wreck hampered his efforts. Texas Motor Speedway, however, has not been kind to the young American. He has placed no better than eighth in five tries to date, including an injury-suffering shunt last year.

Amazingly, despite Will Power’s success in years past on road courses, he is behind his three full-time teammates in the eighth spot. The Australian has scored big results in 2017, including a third-place finish at Detroit on Sunday; however, he also has on his record five finishes of 13th or worse in the opening eight shows to date. While 70 points separate the former series champion from Dixon, a plethora of road course events could allow him to narrow the gap before the double-points finale at Sonoma Raceway.

The 2017 calendar has seen three cases of Team Penske control at the head of the grid and based on Sunday’s returns at Belle Isle, a return to the head table in the remaining rounds is certainly a plausible conclusion.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Fantasy Hot Tip: Detroit

I may sound like a broken record, but a rewind to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is required for the Firestone Fantasy Challenge for rounds seven and eight.

Although there are two separate races when the Verizon  IndyCar Series fleet takes on the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, why mess with a good thing? While no driver has yet to sweep both halves of the doubleheader, the field will be hard pressed to deny Team Penske such a feat.

However, yours truly is not taking two of the Captain’s men as was done in the IndyCar Grand Prix. Based on recent momentum, Will Power gets the nod over Simon Pagenaud, while the consistent Scott Dixon from Chip Ganassi Racing is also featured.

The Honda horsepower advantage will not aid Dixon in the way it did last week in the Indianapolis 500, but it should keep him within a range of anything Chevrolet provides to Pagenaud and/or Power.

After earning a third-place finish behind Power and Dixon in the IndyCar GP, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay gets the nod at Michigan, despite the fact teammate Takuma Sato comes off a victory on Sunday. Spencer Pigot, who rejoins Ed Carpenter Racing after a  frustrating Greatest Spectacle in Racing for Ricardo Juncos’  new organization, rounds the roster for The Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

The same lineup applies for both races, so the chance of whiffing in both legs is limited.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.