Vettel and Massa make biggest gains so far

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Nine races into the 2013 season Sebastian Vettel has made the largest gains over the points total he had at this point last year.

Vettel has accrued more than half as many points as he’d scored after the ninth race of 2012.

But the identity of the driver to have made the next-greatest gain may be something of a surprise. Felipe Massa has had a poor run in the last four races with a series of crashes and spins. Yet he’s still amassed 34 points more than he managed during his disastrous start to last season, thanks in part to his podium finish in Spain.

Kimi Raikkonen has gained almost as many points after a strong start to the season with a win and four second places.

But Vettel’s closest challenge in the championship, Fernando Alonso, has seven points less than he’d scored by round nine of the 2012 campaign. And team mate Mark Webber is down by 23 points.

Here are the winners and losers in the championship so far:

Driver 2013 so far 2012 (nine races) Difference
Sebastian Vettel 157 100 +57
Fernando Alonso 123 129 -6
Kimi Raikkonen 116 83 +33
Lewis Hamilton 99 92 +7
Mark Webber 93 116 -23
Nico Rosberg 84 75 +9
Felipe Massa 57 23 +34
Romain Grosjean 41 61 -20
Paul di Resta 36 27 +9
Jenson Button 33 50 -17
Adrian Sutil 23 n/a n/a
Sergio Perez 16 39 -23
Jean-Eric Vergne 13 4 +9
Daniel Ricciardo 11 2 +9
Nico Hulkenberg 7 17 -10
Pastor Maldonado 0 29 -29

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski