Andretti, Castroneves tied for IndyCar points lead

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One wonders if Texas Motor Speedway president/general manager/master promoter Eddie Gossage is rubbing his hands with glee as the IZOD IndyCar Series heads for his ‘Wild Asphalt Circus.”

Take a look at the IndyCar standings after this weekend’s doubleheader in Detroit and you may ask yourself that question, too.

Marco Andretti, the current generation of one of racing’s most storied families, and Helio Castroneves, arguably IndyCar’s most bankable star over the last decade, are now tied atop the championship. Not to mention that the series’ reigning American titleholder, Ryan Hunter-Reay, is right behind them both.

That’s the situation as North America’s top open-wheel series prepares to go from street fighting in the Motor City to high-banked action under the lights in the Lone Star State. Andretti and Castroneves each have 206 points, while Hunter-Reay sits 15 points off their pace in third position.

But the fight for the championship could get even more crowded after Saturday night’s prime-time Firestone 550 at TMS (8:30 p.m. ET; check local listings). Scott Dixon and Detroit Dual 2 winner Simon Pagenaud are coming up fast, with Dixon in fourth at 20 points behind and Pagenaud (29 points behind) vaulting into the Top 5 after his victory on Sunday.

It should all make for a doozy of a race, which comes along as the relationship between IndyCar and TMS enters what Gossage hopes is a more positive chapter after some tense moments between the two sides over the years.

“I love IndyCar racing. The fans love IndyCar racing,” he told The Dallas Morning News this weekend. “Finally, after 17 years, we were told how important we are after being told how unimportant we are repeatedly by every [IndyCar] administration since 1997. Iā€™m excited about this.”

Here’s your current Top 10 in the IndyCar standings following the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit weekend:

1. 3-Helio Castroneves, Team Penske/Chevrolet – 206 points
25-Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet – 206 points
3. 1-Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet, -15
4. 9-Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing/Honda, -20
5. 77-Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports/Honda, -29
6. 14-Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Racing/Honda, -31
7. 19-Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing/Honda, -37
8. 11-Tony Kanaan, KV Racing Technology/Chevrolet, -46
9. 27-James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet, -52
10. 83-Charlie Kimball, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing/Honda, -57

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.