Helio still atop IndyCar standings as scene shifts to Toronto

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With trouble finding Ryan Hunter-Reay early in the Pocono IndyCar 400, Helio Castroneves had a clear path to increase his lead over the American in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

Castroneves ran as high as third this afternoon before falling back to an eventual eighth-place result. But with RHR finishing 20th after getting hit from behind on pit road by an out-of-control Takuma Sato, the Team Penske pilot still built up a 23-point advantage going into next weekend’s doubleheader at the Honda Indy Toronto (Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

“It’s definitely good to come out of this race building our lead in the championship,” said Castroneves, who had led by nine markers before Sunday’s race. “The team did a fantastic job this weekend. The race was very challenging. For us, as a team, we had to make a lot of decisions during the race.

“Ultimately, the key was saving fuel for a good result, and we’ll take a top-10 finish and move on to Toronto with the good points we earned here.”

Marco Andretti led 88 laps today, but late fuel woes dropped him to 10th at the checkers and kept him from moving closer to teammate Hunter-Reay in the standings. Meanwhile, Pocono winner Scott Dixon is gaining on Andretti (55 points behind Castroneves), jumping three spots in the championship to fourth (65 points behind Castroneves) thanks to his first victory of 2013. James Hinchcliffe dropped to fifth in the table (84 points behind Castroneves) after his Lap 1, Turn 1 crash.

IZOD IndyCar Series Standings
Top 10 – After 11 of 19 races

1. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske/Chevrolet, 356 points
2. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet, -23 points
3. Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet, -55 points
4. Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing/Honda, -65 points
5. James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport/Chevrolet, -84 points
6. Tony Kanaan, KV Racing Technology/Chevrolet, -85 points
7. Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports/Honda, – 87 points
8. Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing/Honda, -103 points
9. Will Power, Team Penske/Chevrolet, -114 points
10. Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Racing/Honda, -115 points

Josef Newgarden dominates from pole to win KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America

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There’s a reason why Josef Newgarden calls Road America his favorite racetrack – and he showed why Sunday, dominating to victory in the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

Newgarden led all but two laps from the pole and was in a class of his own throughout the 55-lap caution-free race on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course in central Wisconsin, defeating runner-up Ryan Hunter-Reay by 3.3759 seconds.

“(I wanted this one) really bad,” Newgarden told NBCSN in victory lane. “I wanted to win here since last year. This car has been a rocket all weekend. It wasn’t easy. Ryan was very quick and I knew Dixon was right behind him, so we were working for it the entire race.

“I kind of knew what I had to do, but it was a lot of work. Ryan was really pushing me. It’s good to get a win. It doesn’t matter what car, as long as it’s Team Penske.”

It was Newgarden’s series-leading third win of the season in the first 10 races (also won at ISM Raceway in Phoenix and Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama), pushing him past Team Penske teammate and Indy 500 winner Will Power and Scott Dixon, who both have two wins in the 2018 campaign.

“I was hoping to make it more interesting for the fans here at Road American and on TV,” Hunter-Reay said. “The last two stints, when he put on used red and I had blacks, he was really hooked up. … I was pushing 110 percent, that’s for sure.

“Unfortunately, I just couldn’t catch up to Josef. I was able to close up the gap a little bit here and there, but not like I was early in the race. He found his own way for sure. Definitely, the clean air out front helps, but hats off to him: he had a great race and deserves the win.”

Dixon finished third, followed by Takuma Sato, Robert Wickens, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot (his best finish of the season), Ed Jones and James Hinchcliffe.

Dixon (393 points) maintains the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, Hunter-Reay (348) moved up two spots to second place, Alexander Rossi (tied with Hunter-Reay for second at 348) dropped one spot to third, Newgarden (343) climbed one spot to fourth and Will Power (328) dropped two spots to fifth in the standings.

“It’s so tight … so tough,” Dixon said. “The Verizon IndyCar Series, right now, the competition is through the roof. To get a podium these days is tough enough, yet to get a win. But we’ll keep pushing and see what we get.”

There was action right from the opening lap, including misfortune for Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power, who suffered engine issues that sent him to the pits after the opening lap.

After trying to work on his car in the pits, Power’s team pushed it back to the paddock to attempt further repairs, but those efforts failed and the car was retired.

Power was third in the IndyCar points standings coming into the race, 36 points behind series leader Scott Dixon. He finished last (23rd) in Sunday’s race and will likely drop to fifth in the standings.

“They replaced the exhaust, and it just blew straight back out,” Power told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “So, there’s obviously something going on in there that’s gone wrong.

“I feel bad for all the guys. It’s just one of those things, you know – you’ll get that every now and then at some point. No good, but we’ll move on to the next one.”

Also, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi had an issue with what appeared to be brakes- or suspension-related that resulted in a lengthy pit stop after 38 laps. Rossi finished 16th in the 23-car field.

“Hugely disappointing,” Rossi told NBCSN. “It was good enough for fourth … but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

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