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Everything you need to know about Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville

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After three and four-wide speedway antics at Fontana, the Sprint Cup Series returns to its fender-rubbin’ roots this weekend at NASCAR’s oldest track, the half-mile “paperclip” known as Martinsville Speedway.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the important numbers and notes you need to know going into this coming weekend’s STP 500 – Round 6 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

MARTINSVILLE-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota)
· Four top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.6
· Average Running Position of 12.5, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.8, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.182 mph, seventh-fastest
· 5,803 Laps in the Top 15 (72.2%), eighth-most
· 512 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), sixth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· Eight top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 16.0
· Average Running Position of 13.2, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 97.0, sixth-best
· 402 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.292 mph, fourth-fastest
· 6,323 Laps in the Top 15 (70.0%), fifth-most
· 578 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet)
· 10 top fives, 15 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.2
· Average Running Position of 11.0, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.9, fourth-best
· 455 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Series-high 1,042 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.288 mph, fifth-fastest
· 6,963 Laps in the Top 15 (77.1%), third-most
· 619 Quality Passes, third-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet)
· Eight wins, 27 top fives, 34 top 10s; seven poles
· Average finish of 6.8
· Average Running Position of 6.2, second-best
· Driver Rating of 121.1, second-best
· Series-high 1,029 Fastest Laps Run
· 857 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.640 mph, second-fastest
· 8,167 Laps in the Top 15 (90.4%), second-most
· Series-high 660 Quality Passes

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)
· Four wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 8.1
· Average Running Position of 8.8, third-best
· Driver Rating of 111.4, third-best
· 572 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.421 mph, third-fastest
· 6,609 Laps in the Top 15 (82.3%), fourth-most
· 560 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One win, three top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.2
· Average Running Position of 13.8, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.9, eighth-best
· 220 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 869 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.074 mph, eighth-fastest
· 5,947 Laps in the Top 15 (65.8%), seventh-most
· 510 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Eight wins, 17 top fives, 21 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 5.3
· Series-best Average Running Position of 5.8
· Series-best Driver Rating of 124.0
· 954 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 91.652 mph
· Series-high 8,333 Laps in the Top 15 (92.2%)
· 647 Quality Passes, second-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· One top five, five top 10s
· Average finish of 10.4
· Average Running Position of 13.5, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.2, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.071 mph, ninth-fastest

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet)
· One top five, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.2
· Average Running Position of 15.9, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.2, 12th-best
· 854 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 90.964 mph, 11th-fastest
· 4,817 Laps in the Top 15 (53.3%), 12th-most
· 386 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet)
· One win, seven top fives, 11 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 15.3
· Average Running Position of 15.2, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.4, 11th-best
· 142 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 938 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· 5,058 Laps in the Top 15 (56.0%), 10th-most
· 478 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Three wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 13.8
· Average Running Position of 11.1, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.5, fifth-best
· 376 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.200 mph, sixth-fastest
· 6,113 Laps in the Top 15 (71.6%), sixth-most
· 417 Quality Passes, 11th-most

source:

Martinsville Speedway Data

Season Race #: 6 of 36 (03-30-14)
Track Size: 0.526-mile
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 12 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 12 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 0 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 0 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 800 feet
Backstretch Length: 800 feet
Race Length: 500 laps / 263 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Martinsville
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 124.0
Jeff Gordon………………………… 121.1
Denny Hamlin………………………. 111.4
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 98.9
Tony Stewart…………………………. 98.5
Kyle Busch…………………………… 97.0
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 93.8
Kevin Harvick………………………… 92.9
Brad Keselowski……………………. 89.2
Ryan Newman……………………….. 87.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Martinsville Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data

2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet – 98.400 mph, 19.244 secs., 04-05-13

2013 race winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet – 72.066 mph, (03:38:58), 04-07-13

Track qualifying record: Denny Hamlin, Toyota – 99.595 mph, 19.013 secs., 10-25-13

Track race record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 82.223 mph, (3:11:55), 09-22-96

Martinsville Speedway History

· Opened in September 1947 by H. Clay Earles, Martinsville, originally a dirt track, is one of the oldest continuously-operating race tracks in the United States.
· The first NASCAR-sanctioned race at Martinsville was on July 4, 1948.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was Sept. 25, 1949.
· The track was paved in 1955.
· The first 500-lap event at Martinsville was in 1956.
· Concrete corners were added atop asphalt in 1976.

Martinsville Speedway Notebook

· There have been 130 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, one in the inaugural year and two races per year since 1950.
· 593 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville; 374 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty has the all-time most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Martinsville with 67 starts; Jeff Gordon has the most among active drivers with 42.
· Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Martinsville Speedway in 1949.
· 57 drivers have Coors Light poles at Martinsville, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip with eight; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven.
· 12 drivers have won two or more consecutive Coors Light poles at Martinsville Speedway. Four of the 12 have won three consecutive poles at Martinsville: Glen Wood (Fall of 1959 and 1960 sweep); Darrell Waltrip (1979 sweep and spring 1980); Mark Martin (fall of 1990 and 1991 sweep); Jeff Gordon (2003 sweep and spring 2004).
· Youngest Martinsville pole winner: Ricky Rudd (4/26/1981 – 24 years, 7 months, 14 days).
· Oldest Martinsville pole winner: Morgan Shepherd (4/26/1987 – 45 years, 6 months, 14 days).
· 47 different drivers have won at Martinsville Speedway, led by Richard Petty with 15; Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon lead the series among active drivers with eight wins each.
· 23 drivers have multiple wins at Martinsville Speedway only four active drivers have multiple wins: Jimmie Johnson (eight), Jeff Gordon (eight), Denny Hamlin (four) and Tony Stewart (three).
· Hendrick Motorsports leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 21.
· 21 of 130 races (16.1%) at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the Coors Light pole; seven of those 21 wins came from active drivers: Tony Stewart (2000), Jeff Gordon (2003 twice), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2012, spring 2013) and Denny Hamlin (2010).
· The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Martinsville producing more wins (21) than any other starting position.
· 36 of the 130 (27.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the front row: 21 from the pole and 15 from second-place.
· 95 of the 130 (73%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Five of the 130 (3.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 36th, by Kurt Busch in the fall of 2002.
· Youngest Martinsville winner: Richard Petty (04/10/1960 – 22 years, 9 months, 8 days).
· Oldest Martinsville winner: Harry Gant (09/22/1991 – 51 years, 8 months, 12 days).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the series in runner-up finishes at Martinsville Speedway with seven; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with four, followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson with three.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Martinsville Speedway with 30; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 27, followed by Jimmie Johnson with 17.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Martinsville Speedway with 37; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 34, followed by Jimmie Johnson (21).
· Jeff Gordon leads active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Martinsville Speedway with a 7.238. Ryan Newman is the only other active driver with an average starting position at Martinsville in the top-10 (9.417).
· Three active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top-10 at Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson (5.333), Jeff Gordon (6.833) and Denny Hamlin (8.125).
· There have been five NSCS green-white-checkered finishes at Martinsville Speedway: fall 2007 (500/506), fall 2008 (500/504), fall 2009 (500/501), spring 2010 (500/508), and spring 2012 (500/515).
· Jeff Gordon has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway without a DNF (42).
· Tony Stewart (4/18/1999) and Scott Riggs (4/10/2005) won their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Martinsville Speedway.
· Mike Bliss (09/27/1998), Travis Kvapil (10/24/2004), Michael McDowell (3/30/2008) and Scott Speed (10/19/2008) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Martinsville Speedway.
· 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Martinsville Speedway. Fred Lorenzen won four NSCS races straight (the most) from the fall of 1963 through the spring of 1965.
· All 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Martinsville Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart won at Martinsville with the fewest previous appearances (three).
· Ryan Newman competed at Martinsville Speedway 20 times before winning in the spring of 2012; the longest span of any the 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Four drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Martinsville Speedway: Mark Martin (12); Bobby Labonte (18), Kevin Harvick (19) and Ryan Newman (20).
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway is the 4/1/2007 race won by Jimmie Johnson with a MOV of 0.065 second.
· Danica Patrick is the only female driver to compete at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
· Seven car numbers have produced five or more Martinsville Speedway NSCS wins:

  • No. 43 – Richard Petty (1960, ’62, ’63, ’67 sweep, ’68, ’69 sweep, ’70, ’71, ’72 sweep, ’73, ’75 and ’79); John Andretti (1999)
  • No. 11 – Cale Yarborough (1974, ’76, ’77 sweep, ‘78); Darrell Waltrip (1981, ’82, ’83, ’84); Geoff Bodine (1990 sweep); Denny Hamlin (2008, ’09, ’10 sweep)
  • No. 28 – Fred Lorenzen (1961, ’63, ’64 sweep, ‘65 and ‘66); Buddy Baker (1979); Ernie Irvan (1993).
  • No. 2 – Dale Earnhardt (1980); Rusty Wallace (1993, ‘94 sweep, ’95, ’96 and ‘04)
  • No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson (2004, ’06, ’07 sweep, ’08, ’09, ’12, ‘13)
  • No. 24 – Jeff Gordon (1996, ’97, ’99, ’03 sweep and ’05 sweep, fall 2013)
  • No. 3 – Ricky Rudd (1983); Dale Earnhardt (1985, ’87, ’88, ’91, ’95)

NASCAR in Virginia

· There have been 282 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among nine tracks in Virginia: Martinsville 130, Richmond International Raceway 115, South Boston 10, Langley Field (Hampton) 9, Old Dominion (Manassas) 7, Southside (Richmond) 4, Starkey (Roanoke) 2, Norfolk 2, Princess Anne (Norfolk) 1.
· 169 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Virginia.
· 19 drivers from Virginia have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series. 11 of the 19 Virginia native NASCAR winners have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

source:

Updated Firestone 600 schedule, starting grid, Lap 71 running order

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This weekend’s trip for the Verizon IndyCar Series back to Texas Motor Speedway features a bit of an oddity, as it’s a return to finish the remaining 177 laps left unfinished when the series raced in June.

Here’s a quick rundown of where we are as a result of that rain delay.

QUALIFYING

Carlos Munoz scored his first career pole position in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. Here was the full report on that from my colleague Daniel McFadin in Texas.

Here was the starting grid, below:

FORT WORTH, Texas – Qualifying Friday for the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.455-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, and speed:

1. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 217.137
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 216.901
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 216.740
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 216.740
5. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 216.684
6. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 216.663
7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 216.647
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 216.295
9. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 216.262
10. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 216.262
11. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 216.260
12. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 216.162
13. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 215.927
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 215.751
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 215.533
16. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 215.299
17. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 215.279
18. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 215.030
19. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 214.864
20. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 214.568
21. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 213.826
22. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, no speed

RACE

The first stint of the race was pretty much status quo, save for Alexander Rossi’s rear tires falling off and the Indianapolis 500 champion doing a great job of saving his car.

Then Lap 42 happened and that nasty accident between Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden, which left Newgarden with a fractured right clavicle and a small fracture on his right hand.

That led to a long caution and then when the skies opened on Lap 71, 53 laps short of the Lap 124 halfway mark (600 kilometers is a 248-lap race), the race was red flagged and we were left with the scenario we are in now. The race was rescheduled to Saturday, August 27, and it’s where the IndyCar circus is needing to travel back to Texas again.

Here’s the running order on Lap 71:

1. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda
2. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda
3. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda
4. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet
5. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet
6. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet
8. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet
9. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda
10. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet
11. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet
12. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda
13. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda
14. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet
15. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet
16. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet
17. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1 LAP
18. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1 LAP
19. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1 LAP
20. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda 2 LAPS
21. (18) Conor Daly, Honda 29 LAPS
22. (21) Josef Newgarden Chevy 30 LAPS

COMPLETION PLAN

INDYCAR sent out this release on the Friday of Road America weekend, June 24, explaining the process to finish the Texas race:

INDYCAR has announced its plan for resuming the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway that was suspended June 12 after completing 71 of its scheduled 248 laps. The Verizon IndyCar Series race will be completed Aug. 27.

The No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda driven by Conor Daly and No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet driven by Josef Newgarden will not be permitted to participate in the continuation due to the extensive chassis and engine damage each sustained in a crash on Lap 42. James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is the race leader after 71 laps.

Cars continuing in the race will be permitted to use the chassis and engine of their choice for the completion day. Tire allotment and fuel quantity for the completion are yet to be determined. Pre-race aero setups from the June event will be mandatory for the August completion, though INDYCAR may make changes prior to the completion based on the weather forecast for race weekend.

The remaining 177 race laps will be run at the conclusion of the Aug. 27 schedule that includes:

  • A mandatory systems check (an out/in lap only);
  • A 25-minute practice session: Cars will be split into two groups, each group receiving 10 minutes of practice time with a five-minute break in between;
  • A driver autograph session on the track’s concourse;
  • Completion of the race in the evening.

Texas Motor Speedway will be announcing its plans for ticketing, credentialing, camping and various other fan-related and facility-based items in the coming weeks.

UPDATED SCHEDULE

Here’s what you can expect for the IndyCar day at Texas, which will honor police officers as well.

All times are CT, one hour behind ET.

10:00 Garages Open
4:30-4:35 Mandatory Installation Lap
4:35-4:45 Practice, Group 1
4:50-5:00 Practice, Group 2
5:30-6:15 Autograph Session, TMS Concourse
7:10 Push Out
7:25 Grid IndyCars in Restart Order
8:00 NBCSN TV Window Begins
8:15 Estimated Drivers Start Your Engines

Lewis Hamilton “refreshed” after summer break, heading to Spa

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 31: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his win in parc ferme during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton heads into this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps both refreshed and recharged following the summer break – albeit a break which interrupted his run of four wins in a row in the month of July.

Hamilton swept into the title lead after successive wins in Austria, Britain, Hungary and Germany, and the four-for-four run of form now sees him 19 points clear of Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg heading into Spa this weekend.

As you’d expect, Hamilton went off the grid and spent a lot of time in Barbados and the Americas, but feels ready to resume his title charge this weekend. The Englishman is in search of his fourth World Championship, third in a row.

“It’s crazy how quickly this year is going by. It seems like a few weeks ago we were in Barcelona for winter testing and now we’re through the summer break, heading to Spa,” Hamilton said in the team’s race advance.

“The first half of the season was a bit of a rollercoaster, so it’s great to be in the position I’m in with more than half of the races behind us. There will be more up and downs to come, I’m sure. But the way myself and the team have performed so far gives me huge confidence.

“I’m feeling refreshed, re-energized and ready to go after a fun few weeks off, so hopefully everyone else has had a good rest too and we’ll come out fighting.”

Hamilton took pole and the win at Spa last year, marking his first Spa victory with Mercedes and second overall (McLaren in 2010).

He also has a chance to match his career-long win streak of five races in a row, achieved from the Italian through U.S. Grands Prix in 2014.

He never won more than three in a row in 2015, but this year has the four straight wins and six of the last seven dating to his surprise win in Monaco.

Additionally, he’s looking to carry the run of form for Brits in the sporting world these days.

“Spa is a great track – one that every driver enjoys. It was great to finally get back on the top step there last year, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to have another strong race this time around,” he said.

“It’s been such a proud few weeks for British sport, with the Olympics and then Cal Crutchlow becoming the first British MotoGP winner in more than 30 years. I’ll do my best to keep the flag flying this weekend. A big shout-out to the British fans heading out to this one. I’m sure they’ll be out in force as always!”

DiZinno: Pocono thoughts, musings, observations

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Despite the relative lack of on-track activity besides the Verizon IndyCar Series at Pocono Raceway – there were some vintage IndyCars and kids in quarter midgets – there still seemed to be enough going on from the ABC Supply 500 weekend.

A few thoughts from the weekend, below:

  • Poor weather, but positive Pocono staff spirits: This was my first time to Pocono in my career and it’s always good to check another track off the box. I found the staff to be particularly pleasant, cheery and optimistic – not that other tracks don’t have staff quite like that, but I would have understood them being grumpy given the rain on Sunday and the logistical mess that followed. Track president Brandon Igdalsky deserves a round of applause for both his and his staff’s positivity in the face of a third challenging weekend in as many major events as they had this year.
  • Dodging a bullet. Helio Castroneves was gracious and candid in the wake of nearly getting hit by Alexander Rossi’s car on top of him, when Rossi’s car catapulted onto the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet in pit lane. “All of a sudden there was a car on top of me. It was a little strange to be honest. Inside the car, I was actually more protected than what it looked like. Sometime people don’t realize the Verizon IndyCar series are so much about safety and today is the proof of that. Very glad that nobody got hurt,” said the popular Brazilian driver. Rossi was thankful no one was hurt. Charlie Kimball was frustrated as he was trying to enter his pit and got hit by Rossi’s car. The accident very nearly produced a disastrous outcome, but ended up in a good way.
  • Four big names started towards the back. Three of them made it to the top 10. In the “What to Watch For” post I noted that Simon Pagenaud, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay would be starting 14th, 15th, 19th and 22nd, and their progress would be important to monitor on race day. Montoya, Dixon and RHR ended eighth, sixth and third, all of whom tweaked on their cars to be dynamic on race day. Pagenaud? He picked a bad day to have a bad day. The otherwise faultless Frenchman made his first major mistake of the year when losing it in Turn 1. He can only hope this is a mere bump in the road as he pursues his first title and not the beginning of the end of it slipping away.
  • On Ryan Hunter-Reay’s drive that was simply amazeballs. Rare is the day you get a car as hooked up as Ryan Hunter-Reay’s was on Monday. Rarer still is the day you get that out of a backup car because your 2014 Indianapolis 500-winning primary car got tubbed in your practice accident on Saturday. Hunter-Reay’s aggression this year has been nothing short of mesmerizing to watch, and the American was at it again Monday from his start on the opening lap, to his methodical picking off of the rest of the field as the day went on. And then, there was that charge back in the final 25 laps after getting back on the lead lap to unleash the beast – nearly getting back to the front but instead settling for a hard-luck third. It’s going to be one of those drives, if you’re an IndyCar fan at all, where you’ll think back to where you were when it happened and think “Damn, what a performance.” Hunter-Reay’s stats are misleading because even though he ranks 11th in points this year, he’s been one of the top two or three drivers in the field.
  • Power’s good “Case of the Mondays.” “I must say every time we race on Monday, I win, seems to be. If you go back and look at the last six years, I’ll bet you I’ve won every Monday race. I can think of today, Brazil, St. Pete, all run on Mondays and I won them. So I don’t mind Mondays,” said Will Power, who added Pocono to that list of rain-delayed victories in his career. A funky fact, but an interesting one. He’s come on so strongly but he’s also grown into a much more complete, methodical driver rather than the old “win from the front, drive away” Power in his earlier years at Team Penske.
  • Aleshin and Schmidt Peterson on a roll. Fifth in Iowa, sixth in Toronto, a would-be first win at Mid-Ohio and now pole and second in Pocono – Mikhail Aleshin and the SMP Racing team with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports are clicking. Consider too that teammate James Hinchcliffe has reeled off a ninth, third, fifth and 10th in the same time frame and you’ve got the results of the best performing Honda team in the field.
  • Honda’s dominated the two big ovals, but misses an important win. The interesting stat of the day: Hondas in the two 500-mile races have led 251 of 400 laps, for 62.75 percent. In the remaining 11 races completed thus far, they’ve been out front just 108 of 1277 laps, or 8.45 percent. With Honda missing its best win opportunity since the Indianapolis 500, there’s a concerning and realistic possibility they could win Indy, and go 0-for-the-rest-of-the-season otherwise.
  • Other nuggets/thoughts. Glad to see both Dale Coyne Racing drivers Conor Daly and Pippa Mann bring their cars (neither one particularly quick or well-handling) home to the finish in 16th and 17th, more than could be said for others. Mann joins Carlos Munoz and Scott Dixon in finishing the last three 500-miler races (tweet via Trackside Online), and Mann has finished her last six overall dating to 2014. … Josef Newgarden’s fourth place finish after starting second follows finishes of third (Indianapolis 500) and winning (Iowa) after also starting second. … Graham Rahal can’t seem to catch a break and started/finished 11th owing a lack of top-end speed. … Like at the Indianapolis 500, Max Chilton and Jack Hawksworth posted needed clean finishes in 13th and 14th (15th and 16th at Indy) and on the lead lap.

Felix Rosenqvist confirms end of Indy Lights program

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CASTLE DONINGTON, UK – Felix Rosenqvist has confirmed that his Indy Lights program has ended following his move into Formula E with Mahindra Racing.

Rosenqvist moved into Indy Lights for 2016 after winning the FIA European Formula 3 title last year, joining Belardi Racing.

The Swede won his second Indy Lights race at St. Petersburg but was forced to miss a handful of rounds due to commitments elsewhere in GT racing and DTM.

Rosenqvist won both races of the Toronto weekend, which proved to be his last in Indy Lights. A move up into a race-seat in DTM with Mercedes was announced earlier this month after Esteban Ocon claimed a Formula 1 driver with Manor, but it was his Formula E deal with Mahindra – confirmed on Monday – that prompted him to call time on his Indy Lights involvement.

“I think it was more when the Formula E got confirmed,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports.

“The clash I have next week with Nürburgring and Watkins Glen would be there anyway as I’m Mercedes’ reserve driver in DTM, so that didn’t really change anything.

“But the fact that the next Donington test is interfering with Laguna Seca made it for sure that I cannot compete unfortunately. That’s a shame but that’s how it is.

“The deal we had with Belardi for this year was they were aware I had some clashes and there might be more clashes. It’s fine from both sides and it was expected.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t do more than we did.”

Rosenqvist remains keen to return to America in the future, having enjoyed an IndyCar test with Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio last month.

“I think IndyCar is for sure really high on my list of things I want to do,” Rosenqvist said.

“Obviously I tried the car this year, had a really good test for Ganassi there. It’s something I would like to continue, next year or not, doesn’t really matter for me.

“But I would really like to try that one more time.”

Rosenqvist believes he could have been in contention for the Indy Lights title had he not been forced to miss a number of races, but says failing to do so may make it difficult for others to judge his ability.

“I mean I didn’t do the whole championship. I think it’s hard to rate people if they don’t do the whole championship because maybe you have less pressure,” Rosenqvist said.

“For sure I won three races, so that was definitely good. I would like to be there and fight for the title. I’m sure I could have done it.

“I think it’s up to people to judge their impression from the time I was there. I definitely enjoyed it and I would like to go back to America at one point.”