Dixon’s doubleheader dominance may deliver him 2013 IndyCar title

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Six days and roughly 12 hours of racing this season may be the ultimate key to Scott Dixon winning the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

In the three doubleheader race weekends at Detroit, Toronto and Houston, Dixon scored three wins, six top-four finishes in six races, and amassed 263 points.

No one else even came close.

Detroit was expected to be something of a wild card for IndyCar doubleheaders. At the time, racing legend Mario Andretti told me in an exclusive MotorSportsTalk interview it was a gamble for IndyCar to try doubleheaders; potentially, having two races on the same weekend would detract from having just one featured race.

And, with Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud scoring surprise victories, it certainly seemed like no one would really gain the upper hand in the doubleheaders. But Dixon and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team finished fourth in both events, and would only surge from there.

A one-day test at Sebring held in late June was pivotal to the team’s success from that point forward. Gains made to the team’s damper program and a further understanding of the new-for-2013 Firestone tire compounds propelled the team into another stratosphere on street courses.

And because they unloaded fast in both Toronto and Houston, Dixon was unstoppable. He swept the Toronto doubleheader weekend and earned a $100,000 bonus from SONAX for the achievement; he damn near did the same this weekend at Houston but was unable to pass Will Power late in Race 2 on Sunday. As it was, Helio Castroneves’ weekend from hell created a 74-point shift in the standings. Dixon went from 49 down entering the weekend to 25 up leaving.

But he has the doubleheaders to thank for his overall gain in the standings this year. On the doubleheader weekends, Dixon scored 263 points, and Conway was second with 180. Castroneves scored only 143, seventh most in the field.

A full breakdown of each driver’s points total and doubleheader results are below.

1.  Scott Dixon, 263 (4,4,1,1,1,2)
2.  Mike Conway, 180 (1,3,7,7,16,9)
3.  Simon Pagenaud, 169 (12,1,9,12,4,6)
4.  Dario Franchitti, 159 (6,5,3,4,15,15)
5.  Sebastien Bourdais, 155 (24,11,2,3,8,5)
6.  Justin Wilson, 154 (3,22,11,8,3,4)
7.  Helio Castroneves, 143 (5,8,6,2,18,23)
8.  Will Power, 139 (8,20,15,18,12,1)
9.  James Jakes, 128 (10,2,12,23,6,17)
10. Charlie Kimball, 124 (14,7,21,6,11,8)
11. Marco Andretti, 119 (20,6,4,9,13,20)
12. Simona de Silvestro, 116 (16,24,10,14,2,10)
13. Josef Newgarden, 113 (7,16,23,11,5,13)
14. Graham Rahal, 109 (9,10,20,13,7,18)
15. E.J. Viso, 108 (17,17,14,5,9,16)
16. James Hinchcliffe, 100 (15, 19,8,21,24,3)
17. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 95 (2,18,18,19,20,21)
18. Sebastian Saavedra, 91 (22,10,16,15,14,12)
19. Tristan Vautier, 88 (11,14,19,16,22,11)
20. Tony Kanaan, 87 (13,12,5,24,21,24)
21. Ed Carpenter, 67 (18,15,13,22,23,22)
22. Takuma Sato, 65 (19,23,24,20,17,14)
23. Alex Tagliani, 49 (23,21,17,10,DNS x2)
24. Oriol Servia, 37 (DNS x4,19,7)
25. Ryan Briscoe, 34 (21,13,22,DNS x3)
26. Luca Filippi, 31 (DNS x4,10,19)
27. Carlos Munoz, 13 (DNS x3,17,DNS x2)
28. AJ Allmendinger, 10 (25,25,DNS x4)

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.