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

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.