Some intriguing stats, movers and shakers out of Texas

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A few stats and points notes to emerge after Saturday night’s Firestone 550 in the IZOD IndyCar Series:

  • Separation at the top, homes. We entered this manic IndyCar stretch of five races in four weekends after Indianapolis with the top 10 drivers separated by 60 points. Now, fourth-placed Tony Kanaan is some 64 points back of Helio Castroneves. What’s changed? Castroneves is the only driver in the last four races with four top-10 finishes, while Takuma Sato, who was second in points after Indy, hasn’t had a top-10 result since Brazil now four races ago. Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay have weathered the storm for Andretti Autosport to remain 22 and 27 points back of Castroneves.
  • Dario’s coming back. Although Dario Franchitti hasn’t won since the 2012 Indianapolis 500, he has scored the fourth most points (158 to Castroneves at 180, Andretti at 176 and Hunter-Reay at 166) since Long Beach, and has climbed from 26th to 10th in points. Milwaukee this weekend is one of his strongest tracks, and could be a track where he ends his winless drought.
  • Viso a qualifying master, but needs the results. Your best qualifier in the last five races? That would be E.J. Viso, who has five consecutive top-five starts. Unfortunately, due to a myriad of bad luck, he doesn’t have a single top-five finish in that stretch. He led 27 laps at Milwaukee a year ago and finished fifth, so he could break his string of poor results this weekend.
  • Best weekend yet for Newgarden. The Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing sophomore had his INDYCAR 36 premiere over the weekend, qualified in the top-15 for the first time this year (seventh) and drove solidly to eighth in a race with limited yellows and where car control and handling was paramount. He’s alternated top-10s and bad finishes this year, though, going into Milwaukee.