IndyCar: Crunching the numbers post-Barber

1 Comment

I crunched some numbers after the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Even though the top few positions are a bit top-heavy, the ridiculously tight and competitive nature of the Verizon IndyCar Series field stretches through all 23 cars.

Qualifying Notes

  • After there were zero Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing entries in the Firestone Fast Six at Long Beach, they made up half of it at Barber.
  • Josef Newgarden was the lone non-Penske/Ganassi/Andretti Autosport driver in the Barber Fast Six. This also marked his first time making back-to-back Fast Six appearances, and was also his first career Fast Six on a permanent road course. His previous two came at the Baltimore and Long Beach street courses for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team.
  • Graham Rahal posted his best start of 2014 at Barber, although it was only 18th. Meanwhile Tony Kanaan and rookie Jack Hawksworth have seen some wild swings in qualifying form. Kanaan’s best start of second at St. Pete is balanced by 23rd at Barber; Hawksworth fell from fifth at Long Beach to 22nd at Barber.
  • Mike Conway and Marco Andretti’s qualifying positions have fallen off in each race, while Newgarden, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves have improved their grid spot each races. Castroneves, additionally, became the 12th driver to make the Fast Six this season.

Laps Led Notes

  • Of the 259 race laps in three races, Ryan Hunter-Reay (91) and Will Power (89) have led 180 of them for a grand total of 69.5%!
  • Sebastian Saavedra has led 14 laps, the first 14 of his career. That, right now, is more than Conway (4), Castroneves (2), Andretti, Newgarden and Justin Wilson (1 each), combined with 9 laps led this season.
  • No driver has led in all three races; 12 drivers have yet to lead a lap this year.

Post-Race Points Notes

  • Power (125) and Hunter-Reay (107) are the two drivers over 100 points through three races. Last year, no driver was able to do that.
  • Wilson is seventh in points (67) and Ryan Briscoe 16th (52), with only 15 points separating 10 positions. Additionally, Sebastien Bourdais in 17th (48) and Oriol Servia in 23rd (36) are only separated by 12 markers. A total of 31 points separate seventh from 23rd; meanwhile 33 separate Power from third-placed Simon Pagenaud.
  • Here’s a look at the breakdown of where each driver was after three races last year, and where they are now in terms of points position and points:
# Driver 2013 (Pos., Pts) 2014 (Pos., Pts) Chg (Pos, Pts)
20 Conway 27, 5 (1 start) 5, 82 +22, +77
12 Power 8, 62 1, 125 +7, +63
28 Hunter-Reay 6, 73 2, 107 +4, +36
77 Pagenaud 13, 58 3, 92 +10, +34
17 Saavedra 25, 25 13, 55 +12, +30
67 Newgarden 19, 46 10, 58 +9, +12
10 Kanaan 12, 59 9, 62 +3, +3
11 Bourdais 18, 48 17, 48 +1, 0
9 Dixon 3, 89 4, 87 -1, -2
19 J. Wilson 5, 81 7, 67 -2, -14
25 Andretti 4, 87 6, 73 -2, -14
27 Hinchcliffe 10, 61 18, 46 -8, -15
15 Rahal 7, 66 20, 46 -13, -20
16 Servia 14, 57 23, 36 (2 starts) -9, -21
83 Kimball 11, 60 22, 37 -11, -23
3 Castroneves 1, 99 8, 66 -7, -33
14 Sato 2, 93 15, 53 -13, -40

Different Driver, Same Car 

# Driver 2013 (Pos., Pts) 2014 (Pos., Pts) Chg (Pos, Pts)
2 Montoya 26, 18 (2 starts, Allmendinger) 11, 56 +15, +38
18 Huertas 24, 30 (Beatriz) 19, 46 +5, +16
7 Aleshin 21, 42 (Vautier) 14, 54 +7, +12
34 Munoz 16, 52 (Viso) 12, 55 +4, +3
8 Briscoe 16, 52
98 Hawksworth 17, 50 (Tagliani) 21, 42 -4, -8

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
1 Comment

Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”