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IndyCar: Key stats of note coming out of Sonoma

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As the Verizon IndyCar Series heads towards the conclusion of its 2014 season, we’ll start looking through the numbers a bit from this season. Here’s a few deduced after Round 17, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma:

  • Sonoma winner Scott Dixon must be rueing his poor start to the season. Through Round 10, Houston Race 2, Dixon was 168 points behind points leader Will Power (405-237). Now through Round 17, Dixon is still 103 back of Power (626-523), but he’s moved from ninth to fifth in the points. He’s also been the highest scoring driver in the last seven races, going since Pocono.
  • The top 10 scorers since Pocono? Dixon has 298, then Juan Pablo Montoya on 256, Simon Pagenaud 250, Power 240, Tony Kanaan 237, Sebastien Bourdais 225, Helio Castroneves 222, Ryan Briscoe 212, Josef Newgarden 205 and Ryan Hunter-Reay 198. Newgarden has moved from 20th to 13th in points on the strength of his last seven races.
  • With Dixon scoring seven top-10 finishes in a row, he’s one away from tying the longest most consecutive top-10 finishes streak of the year. Power banked a top-10 in each of the year’s first eight races through Texas.
  • Castroneves has not scored a top-10 finish in any of the last four races. In that time frame, Castroneves went from leading Power 512-484 to trailing him 626-575, for a 79-point swing in the championship chase.
  • Others of note in relative droughts, finishing-wise: Marco Andretti hasn’t posted a top-five since the Indianapolis 500 (12 races) Justin Wilson hasn’t since Detroit race 1 (11 races) and Briscoe hasn’t since Pocono (six races).
  • Hunter-Reay’s runner-up snapped a four-race drought of top-five finishes; Pagenaud’s podium was his first non-win top-three this season.
  • Mike Conway ends his season with 252 points, which from only 12 races started was only 13 points less than Sebastian Saavedra – the lowest-scoring driver in all 17 races – has managed. That’s with two of Saavedra’s races that Conway did not enter (500-milers at Indianapolis, Pocono) paying double points.
  • With the road and street course portion of the schedule complete, here’s a final rundown of the points achieved in those races (note E is for Engine, C for Chevrolet, H for Honda, with Round numbers across the top):

 

# Driver E 1 2 3 4 6 7 9 10 13 14 15 17 Pts
12 Power C 53 40 32 24 51 41 16 19 22 36 28 24 386
77 Pagenaud H 30 30 32 51 8 28 16 51 33 8 22 35 344
9 Dixon C 32 19 36 15 20 32 11 12 30 26 53 51 337
28 Hunter-Reay H 40 14 53 41 14 11 26 28 9 16 21 40 313
3 Castroneves C 36 19 11 36 34 53 22 13 41 21 11 12 309
11 Bourdais C 17 16 15 33 17 10 32 30 54 22 42 19 307
10 Kanaan C 28 12 22 20 35 22 17 20 35 40 9 18 278
83 Kimball C 10 7 20 30 22 35 12 32 26 32 26 9 261
27 Hinchcliffe H 11 9 26 10 28 32 33 16 24 12 36 18 255
19 J.Wilson H 24 14 29 20 32 18 21 18 20 21 15 22 254
20 Conway C 15 51 16 11 9 20 13 17 15 51 17 17 252
2 Montoya C 15 32 9 14 18 17 40 26 12 11 19 31 244
25 Andretti H 8 24 41 16 21 14 24 22 14 24 8 24 240
98 Hawksworth H 9 15 18 29 11 17 28 35 17 28 14 15 236
8 Briscoe C 20 13 19 28 16 20 18 24 18 19 24 13 232
34 Munoz H 13 35 7 6 26 24 35 8 13 13 32 11 223
15 Rahal H 16 17 13 9 41 9 19 14 28 10 30 11 217
7 Aleshin H 18 28 8 5 14 27 7 41 19 7 16 26 216
18 Huertas H 12 20 14 17 24 15 51 7 16 15 13 8 212
14 Sato H 28 8 17 22 12 14 9 11 7 30 12 33 203
67 Newgarden H 22 12 24 13 10 13 10 10 10 18 19 29 190
17 Saavedra C 19 23 13 8 16 8 15 13 11 9 10 14 159
16 Servia H 26 10 19 55
16 Filippi H 9 15 8 14 46
41 Plowman H 12 12
26 Montagny H 8 8
  • The Firestone Fast Six qualifying portion of the season is over as well. Final tabulations on who made how many of the nine sessions (the three doubleheader weekends offered a different qualifying format for Race 2): Power 6, Hunter-Reay 6, Castroneves 5, Dixon 5, Hinchcliffe 5, Pagenaud 4, Newgarden 4, Kanaan 3, Bourdais 3, Hawksworth 3, Briscoe 2, Sato 2, Montoya 1, Saavedra 1, Filippi 1, Conway 1, Andretti 1, Munoz 1.
  • Mikhail Aleshin, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson made it into the top six in the second race of a doubleheader weekend, but not into a single Firestone Fast Six. Charlie Kimball nor Carlos Huertas didn’t make it to the top six on any road or street circuit.

IndyCar’s last big pre-season test occurs this week at Sebring

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Conor Daly. Photo: IndyCar
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Pre-season testing for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season will conclude this week with all eight full-season teams having two days at Sebring International Raceway’s short course on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sebring marks the closest venue to simulate street course conditions; four of the first eight races are street races while only one street race, Toronto, occurs in the second half of the season.

Although this is private testing, this will be a de facto “spring training” on the 1.5-mile road course for teams to see what the others are running all at once. IndyCar’s official spring training, the Prix View test at Phoenix International Raceway’s 1-mile oval, occurred on February 10-11.

The bulk of the field runs tomorrow, with seven of the eight teams set to test – the only exception is Andretti Autosport. Andretti is listed to test on Wednesday.

All but one of the 21 full-season drivers expected for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener on March 12 will test this week. The one not listed is Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing; Bourdais and Ed Jones tested at Sebring in January prior to the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

They’ll be joined by the three drivers making their test debuts, all for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Robert Wickens, Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani and Luis Michael Dorrbecker.

Wickens tests tomorrow as part of his planned ride swap with James Hinchcliffe, with Derani and Dorrbecker set to test on Wednesday.

Sebring is usually a hotbed for tests over the IndyCar offseason. This year saw A.J. Foyt Enterprises (in late January with Chevrolet) and Chip Ganassi Racing (in early January with Honda) premiere their new manufacturers and aero kits at Sebring, among other teams that have tested here.

Although the test season has seen an increase in interest this year, the regular season starts in St. Petersburg and returns to NBCSN with Long Beach on April 9.

F1 Paddock Pass: 2017 launch roundup (VIDEO)

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The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass returns today with a recap of the remaining launches of the 2017 Formula 1 cars that occurred over the weekend.

Williams was first to reveal a rendering of its 2017 car, but it wasn’t a formal launch. Sauber’s online launch properly kicked off proceedings last Monday, before Renault, Force India and Mercedes did actual launches, and then Ferrari (online) and McLaren (in Woking) both launched on Friday.

Official launches then followed for Williams, Red Bull, Haas and Toro Rosso over the weekend. Haas had pictures of its car leak the day before its planned launch as it was a filming day on track.

In this edition of Paddock Pass, NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales recap the remaining cars revealed over the weekend.

Previous Paddock Pass editions from this week are below:

Testing continues this week with days two through four of the first test at Barcelona.

Alonso’s McLaren struggles on first day of F1 tests

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track  during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) Troubled Formula One team McLaren has gotten off to a wretched start in preseason testing.

Fernando Alonso spent most of the first day waiting to get back out of the garage after his car broke down following just one lap at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday.

What the team identified as an “oil system” malfunction to its Honda-made engine kept the two-time world champion out of action until after the lunch break. Back behind the wheel, his 29 total laps was the lowest amount of the 11 drivers who participated.

Alonso also posted the second-slowest time, more than three seconds off the leading pace set by Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes. Only Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was slower.

“It’s disappointing,” Alonso said. “You work for three months and at the track on the installation lap something breaks down and you lose the day.”

This misstep is the latest technical hiccup to plague McLaren since it paired up with Honda.

One of F1’s most successful teams with eight constructor titles and 12 driver titles, the British outfit has struggled since it switched from Mercedes to the Japanese automaker before the 2015 season.

After earning just a combined 27 points from Alonso and Jenson Button in the first year with Honda, the team showed some growth last season with 76 points and two fifth-place finishes. But that is still a far cry from the glory days of the Woking-based team whose last race win was in Brazil in 2012.

For his part, Alonso hasn’t won a race since he claimed his 32nd victory back in 2013 at the Spanish Grand Prix while with Ferrari.

“It is fair to say that after the difficulties we had the last three seasons, it’s a nice temptation for the media,” Alonso said.

“From the point of view of the team, we are disappointed and sad to arrive to the first day of testing and not run.

“We are focused on what we have to do to make up the lost time. We know that we have four days for each driver and now one day is gone to prepare for the world championship.”

Stoffel Vandoorne, who has replaced Button, will get his turn for McLaren on Tuesday.

McLaren team chief Eric Boullier acknowledged that the relationship with Honda is far from perfect.

“It is like any marriage, you can have some ups and downs,” Boullier said. “We went through a lot of stress through the last couple of years, but we have a positive and constructive relationship and I don’t expect this to change in the future.”

The opening test will run through Thursday.

The track near Barcelona will host a second round of testing from March 7-10 before the season starts at the Australian GP on March 26.

Steiner: Haas is ‘a lot better prepared’ after this day one

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27:  Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Last year’s first day of testing at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona for Haas F1 Team was both exciting and tense all at once.

As it was the first official day of running for the team, questions abounded over whether the new team would bank laps and if so, how would they get on. They did though with Romain Grosjean completing his first 13 laps in the morning session.

Luckily, having had a full year to acclimatize to Formula 1 and get in the rhythm of how this all works, Haas was able to have a smoother first day of testing in 2017, even despite an incident for Kevin Magnussen in his first day aboard the team’s Ferrari powered-VF-17 chassis.

“The plan was to do more, but that’s how the first day goes sometimes,” said Haas team principal Guenther Steiner. “We had a few issues, but that’s normal. They are to be expected when you have a new car and we sorted them out. We are here to learn and that is what we did.

“Our learning process is a lot better than last year because our people have worked together for a year now and we know more about the car. We are a lot better prepared.”

Magnussen ran through Pirelli’s hard, medium and soft compound tires on the day. An incident at Turn 10 damaged the front wing assembly but didn’t stop him from completing 50 laps.

“We had a few issues, but the good thing is that they were small issues,” Magnussen said. “Even though they stopped us from some running, it wasn’t something that is at all worrying for the coming days. It’s kind of the typical baby problems you have with the cars when they’re completely new. Except for that, the first feeling of the car is nice. It’s good to finally get that feeling of the car after looking at it, and all the anticipation for the faster cars. It’s a good feeling. Today’s been a day I’ve enjoyed a lot.”

The Dane continues tomorrow before Grosjean runs the last two days of testing.