IndyCar: Points movers and shakers after crazy five-week stretch

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We chronicled who moved up and down in the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings after the month of May in Indianapolis.

Now, with two weeks off before the next race in Houston June 28-29, a doubleheader that kicks off a stretch of six races in four weekends, we take a look at who’s been the biggest movers and shakers in the points in the last six weeks.

The Sunday of May 4, the weekend in-between races at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, marked the last off weekend.

Since that point, over the last five weekends, there have been six points-scoring opportunities – five races (Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Indianapolis 500, Detroit Dual and Texas) and Indianapolis 500 qualifying.

Here’s a look at how teams and drivers have fared over this stretch:

PRE-GPI INTERIM POST-TMS
1 12 Power 125 245 370
2 3 Castroneves 66 265 331
3 28 Hunter-Reay 107 203 310
4 77 Pagenaud 92 187 279
5 25 Andretti 73 162 235
6 34 Munoz 55 172 227
7 2 Montoya 56 167 223
8 9 Dixon 87 127 214
9 10 Kanaan 62 127 189
10 19 Wilson 67 115 182
11 27 Hinchcliffe 46 135 181
12 11 Bourdais 48 132 180
13 8 Briscoe 52 127 179
14 83 Kimball 37 132 169
15 7 Aleshin 54 109 163
16 98 Hawksworth 42 114 156
17 67 Newgarden 58 93 151
18 14 Sato 53 98 151
19 15 Rahal 46 101 147
20 18 Huertas 46 100 146
21 17 Saavedra 55 83 138
22 20 Conway 82 40 122
23 20 Carpenter 104 104
24 16 Servia 36 52 88
25 26 Busch 80 80

Unsurprisingly, those that have maximized their results over the last six weeks have made big moves. Of note, Charlie Kimball has advanced eight spots from P22 to P14; James Hinchcliffe has also climbed eight spots from P19 to P11; Helio Castroneves is up six spots from P8 to P2; Carlos Munoz seven spots from P13 to P6; Jack Hawksworth five spots from P21 to P16; and Juan Pablo Montoya four spots from P11 to P7.

Those who have fallen off? Sebastian Saavedra’s lost the most with nine, to fall from P12 to P21; Josef Newgarden has lost seven spots from P10 to P17; and Scott Dixon has lost four, from P4 to P8.

Also noteworthy is the point gap from the leaders themselves through the rest of the top 10. Just 67 points covered the top 10 after Barber; now, five weekends later and with a double-points race and a doubleheader in the books, that margin has nearly tripled to 188 covering leader Will Power from 10th-placed Justin Wilson.

Unless drivers are within 100 points of the lead after Pocono, the next double-points race, it’s unlikely that more than the top five drivers at the moment are in championship contention. Dixon, in eighth, at 156 points back is on the borderline of falling out of contention.

NASCAR Truck drivers feel the earth move sitting in NHRA powerhouses

Photos courtesy Kalitta Motorsports
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Several NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers got to see how the other half lives – namely, their counterparts in the NHRA – on Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and across the street at zMax Dragway.

To say it was an eye-opening experience is putting it mildly.

Top Fuel drag racers Shawn Langdon and Troy Coughlin Jr., as well as Funny Car driver J.R. Todd – all from one of the top teams in the NHRA, Kalitta Motorsports – are in Charlotte for this weekend’s 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.

NASCAR Trucks driver Noah Gragson gets to feel the 10,000 horsepower of a Top Fuel dragster.

Thursday, they invited NASCAR drivers Ryan Truex, Christopher Bell, Grant Enfinger and Noah Gragson to show how it’s done NHRA-style.

Todd, Langdon and Coughlin started the day taking Toyota Camry pace cars around the 1.5-mile CMS oval.

Then everyone moved across the street to see some real horsepower, namely, 10,000 horses worth – which is roughly about 13 times the power they have under the hood of their race trucks.

Truex and Bell got a chance to “warm up” Todd’s Funny Car, while Enfinger and Gragson did the same with Langdon’s Top Fueler.

 

Meanwhile, Todd and Langdon both did smoky burnouts that, if the Truck guys thought they could do burnouts, they learned a lot to the contrary.

“It was a cool to do a big smoky burnout,” Todd said. “It was cool to see the guys reactions. We had a great time today and I think we created several new fans.”

Added Langdon, “Days like today is what makes me love our sport even more. Bringing these guys over here and letting them hit the throttle and sit in the car when it warms up gives them a look at what we do. To see the smiles on their faces after a badass burnout and how excited they are, just gets me pumped.”

Here’s what the NASCAR guys thought about the experience.

Bell: “J.R. Todd let me sit in his Toyota Camry Funny Car and they even cracked the throttle open for me when we were warming up the motor. It is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. It is a feeling like none other.”

Enfinger: “Just a crazy experience, something I have never done. Been able to do a lot of cool things with Toyota, but it is not every day that you get to make your dad jealous.”

Gragson: “This was awesome. It was the experience of a lifetime. It was great to hang out with J.R. Todd, Shawn and Troy Jr. Definitely a cool experience; one that I will remember forever.”

Truex: “This has probably been the craziest experience that I have ever been a part of. I got to sit in a Funny Car; they hit the throttle, which really scared me. When I was outside the car, I jumped about three feet in the air. It was cool to get inside and experience that. The nitro was all in my face, and I think they gained a new fan with me today.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

F1 drivers split on new ‘shield’ protection

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One drivers are split over plans to test a new “shield” device to protect against flying debris.

The FIA will trial the transparent screen in the coming months for a potential introduction in 2018, as it pushes for greater head protection for drivers. Recent years have seen major head injuries in several motorsport series.

“I wouldn’t mind trying out the shield, seeing how is the visibility,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas said on Thursday. “In terms of safety it would be a good step compared to what we have now.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was another supporter, saying “we’ve still got to see a bit more, but first impressions seem OK.”

The FIA previously seemed to favor a metal frame known as the “halo,” which was designed to stop a flying wheel hitting a driver’s head but was criticized by some drivers on aesthetic grounds.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat said on Thursday he was “quite against” the shield and the halo. “The way Formula One should look should remain the same,” he added. “We have enough protection.”

Romain Grosjean of Haas voiced concern the “next step” would be completely closed cockpits.

Recent years have seen several high-profile head injuries, including the deaths of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees in 2009 when he was hit by a loose wheel and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was struck by debris, in 2015.

In Formula One, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season when a loose spring from another car hit his helmet, leaving him needing surgery.

Haas changes F1 brake supplier ahead of Russian Grand Prix

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Haas has switched from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in a bid to remedy its long-running braking issues in Formula 1.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation onto the F1 grid in 2016, with Romain Grosjean scoring all 29 of its points through its debut season.

Grosjean and then-teammate Esteban Gutierrez had their efforts spurned on a number of occasions by brake issues which continued to arise through pre-season testing in 2017 and the early races.

Haas pushed to remedy the issue by testing new Carbon Industrie brakes in the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test, with Grosjean and new teammate Kevin Magnussen conducting running.

The team duly decided to fit the new Carbon Industrie brakes for this weekend’s race in Russia, with both VF-17 cars to run with them from Friday onwards.

“To be fair to Brembo, the last update in brakes we had that arrived in China were much better. It took a long time to get them,” Grosjean explained.

“So then I was not screaming to change to Carbone Industrie but it was in the pipeline, so we tried them, and both drivers were pretty pleased with them. We felt like we had more control under braking.

“I’m very sensitive to my left pedal, so I really need to get good brakes to get good confidence and push the car to its maximum limit. So we are going to run them here.

“There is still a little bit of work we need to be doing around the mapping and finding the solution around those brakes but I think yeah, definitely it’s going to help me a little bit to find the last few hundredths.”

NHRA: Chad Head to substitute for Alexis DeJoria in Charlotte

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Alexis DeJoria will miss this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, with her Kalitta Motorsports team confirming DeJoria will need to tend to a family matter.

Chad Head, Kalitta Motorsports Director of Safety, will step into the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry this weekend. No timetable was given for DeJoria’s return; after Charlotte this weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues for its third consecutive race weekend next week in Atlanta.

This isn’t the first race DeJoria has had to miss recently, as she also was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the 2016 NHRA season finale in Pomona.