IndyCar points roundup: Iowa

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While Helio Castroneves celebrated victory, championship leader Scott Dixon left the Iowa Corn 300 scratching his head. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver barely cracked the top ten all day before finally ending up eighth at the checkered flag.

Dixon explained to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis that he and the No. 9 NTT Data Honda team simply fought handling problems all race long.

“We struggled. So loose. We beat up the right front a lot. Coming past traffic was really tough. It was a fun race. Physically very difficult. Our car was neutral, fighting it all day,” Dixon explained.

Scott Dixon during practice at Iowa Speedway. Photo: IndyCar

As a result of his struggles, the already close championship picture has become even closer. Dixon now leads Castroneves by a slim eight points, meaning a Castroneves victory at next week’s Honda Indy Toronto would make him the championship leader.

Pagenaud sits third, 31 points out of the lead. Their Team Penske teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden sit third and fourth, making it a Penske 2-3-4-5 in the championship at the moment, with Power 53 points behind and Newgarden 56 markers out of the lead. With Castroneves’ win, all four Penske drivers have now won a race this year.

Behind the Penske quartet, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal and Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato sit tied for sixth, 66 points behind the lead as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads north of the border for the Honda Indy Toronto (Sunday, July 16, 3:00 p.m. ET on CNBC).

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Lewis Hamilton dominates COTA F1 qualifying for third USGP pole

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Lewis Hamilton gave his chances of clinching a fourth Formula 1 drivers’ championship at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix a boost by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

After leading all three practice sessions for Mercedes, Hamilton continued his domination of proceedings in Austin, Texas by posting the fastest time in each stage of qualifying, with each improvement delivering a new track record in the process.

Hamilton eventually turned in a best time of 1:33.108 in the final stage of qualifying to score his third USGP pole and 11th of the 2017 season, finishing two-tenths of a second clear of title rival Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari’s Vettel recovered from a sluggish start to Q3 to split the Mercedes drivers by taking second on the grid, making Hamilton’s task of wrapping up the title in Austin as difficult as possible.

Valtteri Bottas was left to take third in the sister Mercedes after failing to improve with his final Q3 lap, finishing ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Max Verstappen wound up sixth in the second Red Bull, but will drop to the rear of the field due to an engine penalty, with the team getting him through Q2 on super-soft tires to prepare accordingly.

Esteban Ocon finished as the top midfielder in P7 for Force India, while Carlos Sainz Jr. made an impressive start to life with Renault, qualifying eighth.

Sainz’s impressive result marked the first time Nico Hulkenberg had been beaten on a Saturday by his teammate all season. Hulkenberg took no part in Q2 due to a grid penalty, taking 15th overall.

Fernando Alonso wound up ninth for McLaren ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, but both will gain a place thanks to Verstappen’s grid drop.

Felipe Massa narrowly missed out on a place in Q3 for Williams, finishing 11th ahead of Daniil Kvyat, who put in a solid display on his Toro Rosso return to take 12th.

Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to match Alonso’s efforts in the second McLaren, winding up 13th ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas. Vandoorne will drop to 18th for the start on Sunday thanks to a grid penalty for an engine change.

Marcus Ericsson almost led Sauber through to Q2 for the first time since Baku, finishing just 0.007 seconds away from making it into the next stage of qualifying as he wound up 16th for the Swiss team.

Lance Stroll was left to settle for 17th after struggling with a deployment issue through Q1, as well as irking Grosjean by blocking him on a hot lap, forcing the Haas driver to take to the grass.

Toro Rosso debutant Brendon Hartley qualified 18th for his F1 debut, but was less than one-tenth of a second off a Q2 berth, marking an impressive first showing from the 24 Hours of Le Mans winner.

Pascal Wehrlein and Kevin Magnussen finished well off the pace in P19 and P20 respectively, although both will gain places on the grid due to penalties for Hulkenberg and Hartley.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.