Helio still atop IndyCar standings as scene shifts to Toronto

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With trouble finding Ryan Hunter-Reay early in the Pocono IndyCar 400, Helio Castroneves had a clear path to increase his lead over the American in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

Castroneves ran as high as third this afternoon before falling back to an eventual eighth-place result. But with RHR finishing 20th after getting hit from behind on pit road by an out-of-control Takuma Sato, the Team Penske pilot still built up a 23-point advantage going into next weekend’s doubleheader at the Honda Indy Toronto (Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

“It’s definitely good to come out of this race building our lead in the championship,” said Castroneves, who had led by nine markers before Sunday’s race. “The team did a fantastic job this weekend. The race was very challenging. For us, as a team, we had to make a lot of decisions during the race.

“Ultimately, the key was saving fuel for a good result, and we’ll take a top-10 finish and move on to Toronto with the good points we earned here.”

Marco Andretti led 88 laps today, but late fuel woes dropped him to 10th at the checkers and kept him from moving closer to teammate Hunter-Reay in the standings. Meanwhile, Pocono winner Scott Dixon is gaining on Andretti (55 points behind Castroneves), jumping three spots in the championship to fourth (65 points behind Castroneves) thanks to his first victory of 2013. James Hinchcliffe dropped to fifth in the table (84 points behind Castroneves) after his Lap 1, Turn 1 crash.

IZOD IndyCar Series Standings
Top 10 – After 11 of 19 races

1. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske/Chevrolet, 356 points
2. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet, -23 points
3. Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet, -55 points
4. Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing/Honda, -65 points
5. James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet, -84 points
6. Tony Kanaan, KV Racing Technology/Chevrolet, -85 points
7. Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports/Honda, – 87 points
8. Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing/Honda, -103 points
9. Will Power, Team Penske/Chevrolet, -114 points
10. Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Racing/Honda, -115 points

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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