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IndyCar points tighten as halfway point approaches

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The Verizon IndyCar Series crosses the halfway point of its season this weekend at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway (June 10, 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

As always, the series is widely recognized as one of the toughest, most competitive championships on the planet, and one of the indicators that onlookers use to justify that sentiment is the championship picture, which is notoriously close year in and year out.

Graham Rahal was the seventh winner in as many races this year at Detroit race one, before doubling up in the second race.

For example, last year’s standings looked like this following Detroit:

  1. Simon Pagenaud 357
  2. Scott Dixon 277
  3. Helio Castroneves 271
  4. Josef Newgarden 259
  5. Alexander Rossi 242
  6. Carlos Munoz 242
  7. Will Power 240
  8. Tony Kanaan 240
  9. Juan Pablo Montoya 233
  10. Charlie Kimball 227

Simon Pagenaud led the championship at that time on 357 points, with tenth-place Charlie Kimball sitting on 227, 130 points adrift of Pagenaud. While that appears close, it actually pales in comparison to the 2017 title picture. This year’s standings look like this:

  1. Scott Dixon 303
  2. Helio Castroneves 295
  3. Takuma Sato 292
  4. Simon Pagenaud 278
  5. Josef Newgarden 259
  6. Graham Rahal 251
  7. Alexander Rossi 246
  8. Will Power 233
  9. Tony Kanaan 223
  10. James Hinchcliffe 216

Scott Dixon leads the way, but with 303 points, he has scored 54 fewer than Pagenaud had scored at this time last year. And, the gap to tenth-place James Hinchcliffe is 87 points, considerably smaller than last year.

The lead gap to second was 80 points last year coming out of Detroit. This year, it’s 8!

As it stands, the top three (Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, and Takuma Sato) could all leave Texas with the points lead by scoring a victory. Simon Pagenaud, too, could leave with the points lead with a win and a little misfortune hitting those ahead of them.

And even though everyone from fifth-place Josef Newgarden on down can’t mathematically assume the championship lead after Texas, strong finishes or a even a victory for any of them would result in a further dent in the championship gap to the leaders.

And with a second double-points event still looming (the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma), the 2017 championship picture remains anyone’s for the taking.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.


Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”