IndyCar: Castroneves extends points lead heading into Toronto race two

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Second place for Helio Castroneves and a ninth for Team Penske teammate Will Power in race one means the Brazilian has gained 19 more points heading into today’s second race of the Honda Indy 2 in Toronto.

The Verizon IndyCar Series has just five races remaining this season, and four following the second race of the day.

Simon Pagenaud gained points on Power as well with fourth place, although he lost a few to Castroneves. The Frenchman now sits third, 58 back of Castroneves, but stayed alive despite a first lap spin that dropped him to the rear of the field.

Ryan Hunter-Reay lost ground after his incident with Tony Kanaan, and is now 64 back. He’ll need a big result in race two to help close the deficit.

Juan Pablo Montoya sits fifth in points, 95 back of Castroneves, to make it three Team Penske cars in the top five.

Race one winner Sebastien Bourdais now sits 10th after the victory.

Here’s the top 10 heading into race two (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra).

TOP 10
1.  Helio Castroneves, 512
2.  Will Power, 484
3.  Simon Pagenaud, 454
4.  Ryan Hunter-Reay, 448
5.  Juan Pablo Montoya, 417 
6.  Carlos Munoz, 371
7.  Scott Dixon, 361
8.  Marco Andretti, 351
9.  Tony Kanaan, 340
10. Sebastien Bourdais, 336

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “