UPDATE: Engine change knocks polesitter Castroneves to 11th

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UPDATE (9:35 p.m. ET): After setting a new track record in single-lap qualifying, Helio Castroneves went on to lead every lap of tonight’s third 50-lap heat race at Iowa Speedway – earning the pole position for tomorrow’s Iowa Corn Indy 250.

However, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner will have to start 11th on the grid for the race because of an engine change on his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. As explained by Penske Racing president Tim Cindric on Twitter, the No. 3 team installed a fresh Chevy engine for Indianapolis but now must re-install the previous motor – which, according to Cindric, “had a problem” – and run it to the mileage threshold of 2,000 miles.

As a result, Castroneves’ teammate, Will Power, will start first on the grid tomorrow with James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport on the outside front row.

Castroneves was among the six fastest drivers in single-lap qualifying that were waiting in Heat 3 for the top two finishers in both Heat 1 and 2. Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato (who will also be penalized 10 spots on the grid due to an unapproved engine change) made it out of the first heat, while Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter transferred from the second heat.

But the third heat was all Castroneves.

“I’m very excited to be honest – the boys did a hell of a job, again,” the Brazilian said to the IndyCar Radio Network afterwards. “We learned a lot today, but obviously, tomorrow will be a different ball game. We’ll have more traffic and it’ll be a little bit hotter. There are a lot of things going on but I’m excited.”

It looked like Castroneves’ Team Penske teammate, Will Power, would mount a charge for the pole after passing James Hinchcliffe for second place on Lap 31 of 50. But Power ultimately opted to settle in for a runner-up result in the heat.

“We definitely had a good car,” Power told IndyCar Radio. “Got a bit of a problem with the tires…Maybe the car, we need to improve on a bit. All in all, it was very good. I kind of backed off at the end there. There was no use in attacking Helio. It’s just a qualifying position, so yeah, it was a good warmup for tomorrow’s race.”

As for Castroneves’ pursuer in the championship, Ryan Hunter-Reay had closed to within 16 points after his victory last weekend at Milwaukee. But the American driver was unable to advance out of the first heat, starting eighth and finishing fourth.

“We’ve been sitting on our own thumbs all day,” Hunter-Reay told IndyCar.com. The No. 1 DHL team will have to regroup because we’re starting buried in the pack. We gave up points today.”

IZOD IndyCar Series – Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by DEKALB
Unofficial Starting Lineup

Row 1
12-Will Power
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 2
25-Marco Andretti
20-Ed Carpenter

Row 3
11-Tony Kanaan
15-Graham Rahal

Row 4
4-Oriol Servia
77-Simon Pagenaud

Row 5
98-Alex Tagliani
19-Justin Wilson

Row 6
3-Helio Castroneves*
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 7
55-Tristan Vautier
83-Charlie Kimball

Row 8
9-Scott Dixon*
5-E.J. Viso

Row 9
14-Takuma Sato*
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 10
7-Sebastien Bourdais
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 11
10-Dario Franchitti
67-Josef Newgarden*

Row 12
18-Ana Beatriz*
16-James Jakes*

*10-spot grid penalty for unapproved engine change. Sato and Beatriz changed theirs before heat races, and Castroneves, Dixon, Jakes and Newgarden changed theirs after heat races.

How Hamilton, Mercedes can clinch F1 titles at the United States GP

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Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).

Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

  • If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
  • If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.

While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.

The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.

As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.

The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.