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IndyCar Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Long Beach

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Throughout 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.

Following James Hinchcliffe’s win at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, there are noticeable ranking changes. It is time to say adios to Team Penske’s Will Power at number two, following a second bad finish. It is also farewell to Scott Dixon’s placement on top of the rankings after St. Petersburg last month.

Rarely has a power rankings list ever placed a Dale Coyne Racing pilot on top, but there is a first for everything.

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske (+1)

The efforts from both Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud are just enough to keep them ahead of an ever-improving Dale Coyne Racing. However, the inability for Helio Castroneves to back up his pace from qualifying, coupled with a second consecutive bad finish from Will Power, means the storyline is far from flawless.

2. Dale Coyne Racing (+2)

Bourdais now has two podiums to open his second foray with DCR, and Ed Jones managed to earn a top ten result after fading in the second half of last month’s season opener. Alabama should continue the trend upward; however, Phoenix remains the final exam in terms of whether this team permanently cements itself as a regular front runner.

3. Chip Ganassi Racing (-2)

Scott Dixon continues to provide the good vibes for Ganassi, but problems rest with the remainder of CGR’s foursome. Kanaan and Chilton were relatively quiet on Sunday, and Kimball suffered from another early race incident. Remember, one driver carrying a team is not always enough concerning their ranking.

4. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (+1)

Hinchcliffe was handcuffed by the full course caution at St. Pete. So essentially, he picked right off from that point and came away with a victory at Long Beach. Can’t quite move them ahead of Ganassi based on Mikhail Aleshin’s 12th-place finish though.

5. Andretti Autosport (-2)

Sunday was painful for Andretti. It was not that its team was severely outclassed as mechanical woes were to blame for the lack of results. With nightmares looming from a difficult 2016 season, they need to bounce back at Barber.

6. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (No Change)

A top ten earned by Graham Rahal was alright. but lackluster. Barber was the start of their big surge in 2016, so not a bad place to start another rally.

7. Ed Carpenter Racing (No Change)

Eighth-place deserved from Spencer Pigot, however late exit for J.R. Hildebrand keeps ECR behind Rahal. This is a team that maybe wishes Phoenix was next, rather than Barber.

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

Carlos Munoz was mid-pack for most of Sunday and took advantage of the late shuffling to finish seventh. Now for Conor Daly, still scratching head regarding sub-par results so far. While Munoz was the clearly forecasted higher for 2017, the gap between them should not be this large.

Driver Rankings:

1. Sebastien Bourdais (+2)

No kidding here friends, a DCR driver has reached the pinnacle of IndyCar driver rankings, and not by default either. The Frenchman overcame qualifying shortcomings for podium finishes in the opening two events. Bourdais sits on top of the points table and it is time to reward an early performance.

2. James Hinchcliffe (+2)

As previously mentioned, what happened after the controversial St. Pete caution flag can be omitted. The Long Beach victory simply backed up his opening round performance.

3. Scott Dixon (-2)

A pair of topfives is nice, but when compared to what Bourdais and Hinch have offered, no justification to keep Dixon in the top two. The Iceman could ultimately become a top driver, but not at this point.

4. Simon Pagenaud (+1)

Pagenaud sneaked up to secure another top-five on Sunday. Of course, one can imagine what he could have done with a better qualifying result. That part of the equation is still not adding up.

5. Will Power (-3)

Power is on the verge of joining the “Missing Drivers Club.” A 13th-place finish is an unusual territory for this road racing ace. Perhaps Phoenix could jump start his season.

6. Josef Newgarden (+2)

The podium finish may remove a heavy burden off of Newgarden’s shoulders. The next challenge is simple: when will victory number one with Penske occur?

7. Ryan Hunter-Reay (-1)

A second win at Long Beach appeared possible, until bad luck struck the Andretti Autosport driver.

8. Helio Castroneves (-2)

Spider-Man did well to take pole position, but could not back up the effort on Sunday. Still, a ninth-place result merits his ranking.

9. Spencer Pigot (Not Ranked)

Pigot may not have a ride for next month’s Indianapolis 500, yet he continues to show muscle in his road racing-only schedule for Ed Carpenter Racing. The top-ten at Long Beach merits his move onto the list.

10. Ed Jones (Not Ranked)

The defending Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires champion has taken to IndyCar competition well. Back-to-back top-ten’s are enough for his inclusion after Long Beach.

Dropped Out: Takuma Sato (No. 7 post- St. Petersburg), Tony Kanaan (No.8)

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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

Charlie Kimball Left Frustrated With Will Power

Charlie Kimball did not even get to complete one lap in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach as a result of contact with Will Power.

Starting seventh, Kimball had Power on his trail, with the pair bouncing off each other through turns two and three. Going into four, Power dove underneath his rival but wasn’t clear as contact resulted. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver carried on down the course a little, before pulling off and done for the event.

“To say I am frustrated with how today’s race went is an understatement,” Kimball said. “I thought I was clear of the 12, but I obviously wasn’t. He turned me and put me in the wall pretty heavy. I am really disappointed for the guys – they worked so hard to get the car to a good place for today’s race. The No. 83 Tresiba Honda was fast, and I thought we had a lot of potential for a solid result in today’s race.”

Power got restarted and was able to continue, eventually finishing the event in 13th.

“It was a tough day for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy,” Power said. “We were caught up in an incident early in the race, and I feel like it really ruined my day. It was an awful situation to be put in since we had nowhere to go when we made contact with the wall. Still, we battled. I’m really proud of my guys for working as hard as they did to try and come back from the incident but we couldn’t. We’re ready to head to Barber and get another chance to perform well.”

For both, it marks the second straight rough race as they finished 18th and 19th in St. Petersburg last month.

You can check out the contact below.

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

FANTASY CHALLENGE BREAKDOWN: Long Beach

With the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach less than a week away, the focus for Firestone Fantasy Challenge players has changed.

In direct variance to St. Petersburg, Florida, a case for having Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato as one of the drivers has improved. Although the jury is out on whether or not the Japanese veteran can manage to keep his nose out of trouble, his fifth-place finish earned him followers for Long Beach. According to IndyCar.com, Sato is currently a member of more fantasy teams than any other driver.

The St.Pete result is not the only reason to like Sato. His lone Verizon IndyCar Series victory came four years ago at Long Beach. He also finished fifth last year in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with a A.J. Foyt Racing team that on paper is lower in potential output than Andretti Autosport can provide. Finally, when you consider his current value of twenty dollars, represents only one-fifth of a maximum team budget, even yours truly has officially joined the bandwagon.

With Sato, my fantasy roster remains largely unchanged since St. Pete. The top spot once again goes to Team Penske’s Will Power, perhaps the best road racer in IndyCar since 2008. The Australian is deserving of a second chance after suffering mechanical issues.

Although teammate Simon Pagenaud seems to be a better fantasy option following his second-place effort at St. Pete and Long Beach win last year, the lower price tag for Power provides me more flexibility. That wiggle room allowed me to call upon St. Pete winner Sebastien Bourdais for the second straight event. While the fantasy price for the Dale Coyne Racing pilot has been upped to $27, he must gain a better place on the starting grid. Although a Firestone Fast Six advancement may not be required, Bourdais cannot solely rely on lucky breaks to secure victories as he did last month.

Rounding out this week is Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot, who was the most aggressive driver in the opening laps in March. He could have challenged for a top-ten result, if not for a fluke suspension failure suffered during his first pit stop. If Pigot can make the finish in the top half at Long Beach, chances are that his fantasy value will increase from $17. 

Stay tuned every IndyCar race week at PopularSpeed.com for my Firestone Fantasy Challenge picks.

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 Tops Barber Test; Montoya Takes First Laps of 2017

While the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule includes only one race for the month of March, the drivers are still busy behind the wheel as they took to Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday for testing in advance of the Grand Prix of Alabama later on this season.

As he’s done plenty of times in the past, Will Power topped the speed chart with at a time of one minute and 7.7518 seconds. The Australian could use a good run at Barber in April as a result of starting off 2017 with a 19th place finish in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Notably, in seven starts on the road course, the Team Penske driver has yet to finish outside of the top-five.

“It just shows how tight it is between Honda and Chevy now,” Power said. “It’s tough, man. We just went through a bunch of stuff (during the test day) to see what it does, and I think we got some good answers here. I think we’ve got a good car for here; I feel good about my setup.”

As Power noted, the manufacture parity looks stronger than ever as Max Chilton placed his Chip Ganassi Honda second on the charts, just four hundredths off of Power’s Chevrolet. Chilton is another driver looking for a strong run as he finished 16th in the season opener.

“Good day apart from Power spoiling the fun at the end of the day, but it’s all good fun,” Chilton said. “We actually were struggling a lot with the car all day, that’s why we took a long, long lunch break to sort of change the car. Then we definitely made steps forward, did a few fine-tunes. It’s amazing, you make a few changes, and you jump yourself up the board.”

Power’s teammates Josef Newgarden and Juan Pablo Montoya were third and fourth, followed by Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato. Chilton’s teammate Scott Dixon was seventh, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, and Simon Pagenaud. In total, there were four Chevrolets and six Hondas in the top-10.

For Montoya, this was his first time in the car this season as he was testing ahead of the Indianapolis Grand Prix in May. The Columbian is only scheduled to run two events this season currently – the Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. It was revealed that Raul Prados would be the lead engineer after spending last year at AJ Foyt Racing, along with Ron Ruzewski who worked with Montoya at Penske.

“I feel like I drove the car yesterday,” Montoya said. “It’s kind of fun. I’ve been out of the car since September, but I feel fine. I have a new crew, new guys, new engineer. It’s working really well.”

Rumor currently is that Montoya has a limited schedule due to being set for a sports car ride with Team Penske, but he said, “I don’t know anything about it. I never know anything. That’s above my pay grade.”

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

IndyCar Power Rankings — St. Petersburg

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Throughout 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.

With the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg officially in the record books, it is time to update the team rankings from this past week. Recall, before the season, the rankings were released based on last year and off-season changes. Click here to refresh your memory.

It is also a chance to debut the top ten drivers on the circuit. Keep in mind, the rankings you will see here do not necessarily follow finishing positions from Sunday.

So buckle up folks, here are the results!

Team Rankings:

1. Chip Ganassi Racing (+1)
2. Team Penske (-1)
3. Andretti Autosport (No Change)
4. Dale Coyne Racing (+3)
5. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (-1)
6. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (-1)
7. Ed Carpenter Racing (-1)
8. A.J. Foyt Racing (No Change)

Dale Coyne Racing is no surprise the biggest mover, jumping from No. 7 to No. 4 in the run up to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske swap places at the top as CGR went beyond where they were expected to be in its return to the Honda engine and aerodynamic options. Team Penske and Andretti Autosport were a push this past weekend, so they line up in positions two and three.

The early elimination of Graham Rahal and the bad luck with the second full course caution hampering early race leader James Hinchcliffe means both Rahal and Schmidt drop a place on the list. And while Spencer Pigot made noise early in the race for ECR, they fall to No. 7 following the opening round. Foyt rounds out the list after disappointing outputs from both Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly.

Driver Rankings:

1. Scott Dixon

Following my views on the teams’ list, Scott Dixon moves to the top with his solid third-place effort at St. Petersburg, a performance hurt by the debris caution that shuffled the running order. The Iceman’s performance also puts the 2008 Indy 500 champion as my early favorite for the 101st edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, as he has shown impressive oval savvy in recent runnings.

2. Will Power

St. Pete was a throwaway race for Power, who also was negatively affected by the caution and then sidelined by mechanical failure late. Before his eventual elimination, Power showed enough in both qualifying and the race to merit the number two spot ahead of race winner Sebastien Bourdais.

3. Sebastien Bourdais

While DCR showed the potential to be a consistent frontrunner on at least the road courses, a back-up of its first showing at Long Beach is necessary before Bourdais challenges for the top two spots.

4. James Hinchcliffe

The Mayor of Hinchtown also deserves a second chance at Long Beach after a solid effort to make the Firestone Fast Six and two strong early race moves to vault from the second row at the start to the early lead. Hinch could also be primed for a further jump after the Toyota GP if Honda continues to show superiority over Chevrolet in the power and handling department.

5. Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud did well to salvage his weekend with a runner-up finish; however, the yellow flag aid, plus a lackluster qualifying performance drop him to fifth in the rankings.

6. Ryan Hunter-Reay

Andretti Autosport had a decent opening act for 2017 as Hunter-Reay finished best for the team with a fourth-place result.

7. Takuma Sato

Sato finished fifth in his debut with AA. He also qualified fifth — solid first day at the office for the Japanese racer.

8. Josef Newgarden

Newgarden’s much-anticipated first race with Penske wasn’t spectacular, but not terrible either. He finished eighth after starting the race fourth.

9. Tony Kanaan

Kanaan opened the 2017 campaign with a 12th-place result after qualifying sixth.

10.Helio Castroneves

Castroneves started 16th and picked up 10 positions in the 110-lap event to end up sixth on the day.

I also give honorable mention honors to Spencer Pigot, who before his suspension failure entering the pit lane, was perhaps the most aggressive driver with the eye test. If he can make the checkered flag at Long Beach, Pigot could join the top ten after two events.

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 PICK BREAKDOWN: St. Petersburg

For several years now, the Verizon IndyCar Series website has offered a fantasy league, similar to those provided by NASCAR and several other sports, allowing fans to compete for cash and prizes. As the first green flag of the season is fast approaching at Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, yours truly has taken a head-first dive right into the fun.      

Like most leagues, there is no fee to enter, all that is required is basic information and a contact number if you are indeed a winner at the end of the year. All finished? Okay, let’s get to the fun stuff.

For each of the 17 races on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, you must pick the four drivers who you believe will achieve the best result when the race is over. However, in this game, there is a catch. You are limited to a budget to only 100 fantasy dollars, and with every driver set at a certain value, which can fluctuate up or down during the season based on performance, you are forced to strategize on which legal quartet of drivers will garner the most points. Now for the St. Pete road course, filling your roster with those pilots that can handle left and right turns swiftly is a good place to start and here’s how I have my current roster setup to tackle the combination of public roads and airport runways.

Based on their performances driving for Team Penske in 2016, the lead driver for my team was going to be either 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud or 2014 series champion Will Power. With the Frenchman valued at 36 fantasy dollars and the Australian at just 30 for the season opener, I went with the latter to secure a little more room to take on a higher-valued driver. With my second pick, I used 22 dollars on my remaining budget to add Dale Coyne Racing’s newest driver Sebastien Bourdais.

I have to admit, I am intrigued by what a bolstered DCR squad and the multi-time ChampCar World Series title holder can offer in 2017, and at a reduced value, I felt he was worth the risk. The same strategy play was also behind my selection of A.J. Foyt Racing’s Conor Daly. Daly is not known as a strong qualifier on the IndyCar circuit; however, last year he showed that he can play the off-sequence pit strategy exceptionally well, meaning a poor effort in Saturday qualifying could be wiped clean by the finish on Sunday.

With those three drivers taken, I had 30 fantasy dollars left in my 100 dollar maximum budget, enough to add a second Team Penske driver to my team in the form of Josef Newgarden. While joining a top team can be a daunting task for some, the early returns from preseason testing at Sebring seems to indicate that the Tennessee-native is up for the challenge.

Stay tuned to PopularSpeed.com every race weekend, for my team selections and if you are interested in challenging yours truly, join for free now at IndyCar.com

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 RISES QUICKLY TO TOP IN FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETE QUALIFYING

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Surprisingly, Will Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was absent from the top of the time sheets over the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg’s first three practices. When it mattered most, the Australian answered the call and earned his seventh pole in eight years on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Qualifying results

In today’s waning moments of qualifying, Power posted a lap of 1 minute, 1.0640 seconds (106.118 mph), sealing his 45th career Indy car pole, which is good enough for fifth all-time. The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion will look for his third win at the circuit come Sunday.

“It takes obviously a very good team and kind of getting through that first round there,” said Power, whose lone lap in the opening of three knockout qualifying segments was quick enough to advance while also saving his Firestone alternate tires for the final round, the Firestone Fast Six.

“Definitely had a good moment on the tires in the last round there, so yeah … very happy to be on pole. Really tough competition.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (No. 9 GE LED Lighting Honda) appeared to be the driver to beat for the majority of the weekend, leading the second practice Friday and this morning’s session, where he posted a lap of 1:01.6240 (105.154 mph). Dixon also paced the first two segments of qualifying, but admitted a mistake on his flying lap of the Firestone Fast Six ended his chances at the Verizon P1 Award.

“Honestly, I think the team and Honda did the job, I just did not,” said Dixon, who matched his best starting effort at St. Pete of second, which he last accomplished in 2006. “Came up short, made a pretty big mistake on my fast lap, which definitely disappointed me. We’ve had a pretty smooth weekend, the car’s super-fast but came up short. But it’s qualifying, hopefully tomorrow I can redeem myself and maybe snap up an extra spot.”

The Kiwi has finished runner-up at St. Pete on three occasions, but has yet to find victory lane at the circuit, where he will make his 13th start Sunday.

Following Dixon on the grid were 2013 St. Pete winner James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda), whose best lap of 1:01.3039 (105.703 mph) earned him his best start at St. Pete. Also achieving his best qualifying position at the track was Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet), who will start his first race for Team Penske from the outside of Row 2.

Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato amended for a rough Friday, which saw him tag the Turn 13 barrier in practice, by qualifying his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda in the top five in his debut with the team.

While Sato rejoiced in a successful qualifying, teammate Marco Andretti (No. 27 hhgregg Honda) and defending series champion Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet) found frustration. Neither advanced from Segment 1, despite both showing speed in the weekend’s practice sessions.

“This (qualifying result) is hard to swallow,” said Andretti, who led Friday’s first practice and ran in the top 10 in the subsequent two. “We just overreacted because we were really loose on (the Firestone primary tires). So, we overreacted with the car setup and it wouldn’t turn on the (alternates). … This one hurts because the hhgregg car is faster than this. Last year I went to the back of the field and felt like I had the pace to come through, so we’re hoping for that.”

All 21 cars return to the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg circuit at 9 a.m. ET Sunday for a final 30-minute warmup practice, with a live stream at RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The 14th Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg airs live at noon ET Sunday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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News

Concussion Protocol Expanded Across NASCAR

As the world continues to learn more about concussions and after Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s time away from the sport last season, NASCAR has updated their concussion protocol procedures for all competitors across their three national series.

“NASCAR has worked very closely with the industry to ensure our concussion protocol reflects emerging best practices in this rapidly developing area of sports medicine,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “We will continue to utilize relationships we’ve had for years with leaders in the neurological research field who helped to shape these updates.”

As per usual, any driver who is involved in a wreck must make a trip to the Infield Car Center to be looked over. The rule has been updated to reflect the new “damaged car policy”, now stating “a driver whose car sustains damage from an accident or contact of any kind and goes behind the pit wall or to the garage is required to visit the Infield Care Center to be evaluated”.

As part of NASCAR’s event standards, each care center physicians must use the SCAT-3 diagnostic tool in screening for head injuries, and NASCAR’s new medical partner AMR will provide on-site neurological consultative support at events to work with NASCAR.

Per the company’s guidelines, SCAT-3 is “a standardized tool for evaluating injured athletes for concussion”. Their guide breaks down the assessment in which athletes must follow, which can be looked at by clicking here.

Last season, Earnhardt Jr. missed the second half of the year following Kentucky Speedway in July due to recovering from a concussion sustained in a crash at Michigan International Speedway in June. The 42-year-old spent past five months under the care of Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh, through his recovery. Collins, along with Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty, cleared Earnhardt following a 185-lap test at Darlington Raceway over the course of five hours.

The discussion of concussions and clearance of drivers was a touchy subject throughout the course of 2016.

Notably, Matt DiBendetto was forced to sit out of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Texas Motor Speedway in October, due to a crash in the XFINITY Series race the day before. Driving the No. 14 entry for TriStar Motorsports in the XFINITY race, DiBenedetto made heavy contact with the outside wall on Lap 134 of the 200 lap event. After being checked over, DiBenedetto was not cleared to drive by physicians and entered NASCAR’s concussion protocol. It was determined following testing that he did not have a concussion.

In the Verizon IndyCar Series, Will Power sat out the season opener at St. Petersburg due to symptoms following a crash in practice. It was determined later they were caused as a result of an “inner ear infection”. The resulting discussion saw many opinions shared from different sides, including a discussion between Brad Keselowski and Popular Open Wheel’s Tony Johns.

On the flip side, Sarah Cornett-Ching sustained a concussion in the ARCA Racing Series and sat out the end of the season, before returning to racing this February. She spoke about the experience recently with Popular Speed’s Andy Marquis.

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

Cindric Calling Shots for Newgarden

The big changes continue at Team Penske as in addition to bringing in Josef Newgarden this season, he’s getting a familiar face as a race strategiest.

The multi-championship organization announced that Tim Cindric will call the shots for Newgarden this season. Notably, Cindric has spent the last five and a half years with Will Power, beginning with the Honda Indy Toronto in July 2011. The pair have won 17 races over that period of time, including a championship in 2014.

“As we look back, Will and I had a lot of good times but he will continue that without me,” Cindric told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app. “Will has won no matter who is in his pit and I think it’s important to understand the transition. As I looked at where our strengths are and where our experience is, Myron (Bouslog’s nickname) and I talked about it and thought we should switch this thing up a bit.

“If we don’t get off on the right foot, at least we will understand why. I’m confident the (No.) 12 car group (Power) will be just fine with or without me and the (No.) 2 car group (Newgarden) is in a good place, but I want to help his transition be the right one.”

Newgarden enters his first season at Team Penske, after spending the last couple years at Ed Carpenter Racing, with a fourth place championship finish in 2016.

“That’s exciting to have Tim running my team,” Newgarden told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app. “I’m excited to work with Tim. I respect him a lot within motorsports. He has done a great job with Team Penske. Look at the history with him being a team leader – they have a lot to stand on as a group.

“It’s going to be exciting to work with him. I think he is a great leader and will probably help me be better at my craft and help me improve from what I’ve done in the past. I hope to collaborate well with him and the whole team on the No. 2 Verizon car and having success together.”

With Cindric moving over to Newgarden, Team Penske confirmed Jon Bouslog will call the shots for Power this season. Bouslog spent the past two years working with Juan Pablo Montoya.

 

“It’s a different opportunity to work with (race engineer) David Faustino and Robby Atkinson, the data guy, and the rest of Power’s crew,” Bouslog told Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app. “It’s probably the best overall crew of people. I think I will learn a lot, to be honest with you.

“There are so many people involved in strategy during the race, you can’t watch everything. There are so many eyes on it. It’s going to be a collective team effort just like before. I think it’s the right thing to do with a new driver in Josef. Tim knows how to handle the new drivers, the expectation level of the team. The best move is to do that for Josef so he has the best of everything to win.”

While changes have happened surrounding the No. 2 and No. 12 entry, Roger Penske will continue to call strategy for Helio Castroneves, while team manager Kyle Moyer remains with Simon Pagenaud to chase a second straight championship.

The team also has signed Juan Pablo Montoya for the Daytona 500, but has yet to announce who is calling strategy for the one-race effort. However, the team did mention it may be expanded to two races, with possibly the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course May 13.

“I would be surprised if we do anything before May,” Cindric said. “If we do anything, it would be, ‘Do we do the road course race at Indianapolis or not?’ But I don’t think we will do another race before May.”

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

2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Year in Review: Will Power

 

After missing the first race of the season due to concussion-like symptoms, Will Power fought back to finish second in points to Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud.

 

Points Finish: 2nd

Car No.: 12

Driver Name: Will Power

Team Name: Team Penske

Total Races: 15

Victories: 4 – Detroit, Road America, Toronto and Pocono

Podiums: 7

Top-Fives: 8

Top-10s: 10

Average Start: 5.7

Average Finish: 7.9

DNFs: 3

 

Entering the 2016 season on the heels of his sixth straight top-four finish in points, Will Power was considered one of the early favorites for the championship. Unfortunately, fate intervened and concussion-like symptoms which actually developed due to an inner-ear issue following a wreck in practice resulted in Power missing the season opener race at St. Petersburg.

Once he was cleared to race a week later, he began to put up the numbers immediately as he finished in the top-seven in the next three races. However, while other seasons have been smooth, he had a rough patch through May with only one finish inside the top-10, losing valuable points he couldn’t afford to lose. Like a true champion, though, he fought back and posted six straight top-two finishes, including four wins, to put himself back into championship contention.

Despite being able to close the gap right back down, a crash at Watkin’s Glen and a mechanical issue at Sonoma ultimately handed him the runner-up points finish.

Highlight of 2016 – The summer stretch, which included six straight top-two finishes, including four wins, to put himself back into championship contention.

Downfall of 2016 – Ending off the season with a pair of 20th place finishes ultimately resulted in him coming up short to Pagenaud.

Road/Street Course Analysis – Everybody knows Power does better on the road and street courses versus the ovals due to his background. It showed as three of his four wins came on these style of tracks for a total of five top-fives and six top-10s in 10 races.

Oval Analysis – While he isn’t known as an oval specialist by a long shot, he has gotten better over the years, which has helped his stock as a driver. This year, he performed in the five oval events, finishing inside in the top-10 in each of the five races, including a win at Pocono Raceway.

Notes for 2017 – The numbers dictate Power isn’t losing his touch by any means. If he can avoid some of the troubles which plagued him late in the season this year, he could very well return to the top step of the podium in 2017.

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