Start of IndyCar race sees throttle issues for Helio, wreck for Kanaan and Andretti (VIDEO)

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Today’s Honda 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has begun with trouble for Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan (pictured), and Marco Andretti.

As the cars went out for pre-race pace laps, Castroneves was suffering with a stuck throttle on his No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet.

The Brazilian was due to start 15th on the grid but instead had to see the field take the green flag without him.

But moments after the race began, third-place Tony Kanaan went over the curbing at Turn 4 and spun out. Most of the field was able to avoid him, but Marco Andretti was unable to do so and ran into Kanaan.

“It was really tight for both of us [Kanaan and second-place Josef Newgarden] and I don’t know if he saw me or not,” Kanaan told NBCSN. “I was all the way alongside him and then toward the middle of the corner, he was actually a little ahead so there was contact there. He touched my front wheel and I spun.

“Man, I was in a tough position there. And then Marco didn’t see me, unfortunately. I feel bad for Marco. I feel bad for the Target Chip Ganassi boys. We had such a great streak of podiums and this was gonna be a good race but it’s one of those things.”

As for Andretti, he admonished himself for not being able to qualify further up the grid in order to avoid being caught in Kanaan’s incident.

“That’s what happens when I start back there,” Andretti said to NBCSN. “My qualifying has been pathetic. I’m super frustrated and I’ve got to work on that. That’s first off.

“But what’s breaking my heart right now is where [teammate James] Hinchcliffe is. He’s sixth on the track and he started behind me. It’s just – we gotta qualify better.”

Under the ensuing caution, Castroneves was finally able to get going and returned to the track just before the race restarted at Lap 5. However, the door’s now open for Team Penske teammate Will Power to take over the championship lead with a good result today.

Before today’s race, Castroneves was up by 13 points on Power in the standings.

INDYCAR announces several rules and protocol changes for 2018 season

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The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series opener is still more than six weeks away (March 11, St. Petersburg, Florida).

But several rules and protocol changes that will impact much of the 17-race season were announced today by INDYCAR officials.

First is related to Indianapolis 500 qualifying on May 19-20, one week prior to the 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

* Driver and entrant points will be awarded to the top nine qualifiers for the race. The pole winner earns nine points and the second-fastest qualifier eight points, with awarded points decreasing by one point for each position down to one point earned by the ninth-fastest qualifier.

* Race points for the Indianapolis 500 and the 2018 season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16, will still pay double the normal points for driver and entrant.

There are several other changes on tap for the season, as well.

Here’s a quick rundown of those changes (information courtesy of INDYCAR):

  • The qualifying order for all oval track events except the Indianapolis 500 will be determined by entrant points entering the event. The qualifying order will run in reverse order of entrant points, with the highest in entrant points qualifying last. A car without entrant points will be placed at the front of the qualifying line. If more than one car has no entrant points entering an event, a blind draw among those cars will determine their qualifying order at the front of the line. The qualifying order for the Indianapolis 500 will still be determined by a blind draw.
  • Times have been set for the series-wide open test at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway), scheduled for Feb. 9-10. The track will be open to all cars from 3-6 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. ET both days. INDYCAR has also added four hours of track time on Feb. 8 (3-7 p.m. ET) for rookie drivers to complete their oval test assessments.
  • The series-wide open test at Portland International Raceway will be held Aug. 30, a day prior to the beginning of the Grand Prix of Portland race weekend. Indy car racing returns to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in 11 years in 2018.
  • A schedule change for the month of May will see the INDYCAR garages closed on May 13 – the day after the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – to allow teams time off for Mother’s Day. The track will not be open to the public on this day. The garages will be open on May 14, but there will be no on-track activity.
  • Practice for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday, May 15 on the IMS oval, with the first two hours open for rookie orientation and veteran refreshers, then to all cars. Practice continues May 16-18, ahead of qualifications weekend May 19-20.
  • INDYCAR is granting teams that did not participate in fall manufacturer testing with the universal aero kit an additional half day of private testing. The testing is limited to one car per team and must take place in conjunction with the team’s first on-track test of 2018. Each team is permitted five hours of track time and two sets of Firestone tires.
  • Working with Firestone, INDYCAR has increased the tire allotment at five events. The race weekends at ISM Raceway (Phoenix), the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Texas Motor Speedway, the streets of Toronto and Iowa Speedway will see teams receive an additional set of tires. In a related change, drivers outside the top 10 in the point standings will no longer have an extra set of tires available to them for the opening practice session of a race weekend.
  • The minimum car weight for 2018 has been increased by 10 pounds – to 1,620 pounds for road and street courses and short ovals, 1,590 pounds for superspeedways (both do not include fuel, drink bottle and its contents, driver and driver equivalency weight) – to accommodate for new parts and additional on-car cameras related to the universal aero kit all competitors will run in 2018.