IndyCar: Key stats of note coming out of Sonoma

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As the Verizon IndyCar Series heads towards the conclusion of its 2014 season, we’ll start looking through the numbers a bit from this season. Here’s a few deduced after Round 17, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma:

  • Sonoma winner Scott Dixon must be rueing his poor start to the season. Through Round 10, Houston Race 2, Dixon was 168 points behind points leader Will Power (405-237). Now through Round 17, Dixon is still 103 back of Power (626-523), but he’s moved from ninth to fifth in the points. He’s also been the highest scoring driver in the last seven races, going since Pocono.
  • The top 10 scorers since Pocono? Dixon has 298, then Juan Pablo Montoya on 256, Simon Pagenaud 250, Power 240, Tony Kanaan 237, Sebastien Bourdais 225, Helio Castroneves 222, Ryan Briscoe 212, Josef Newgarden 205 and Ryan Hunter-Reay 198. Newgarden has moved from 20th to 13th in points on the strength of his last seven races.
  • With Dixon scoring seven top-10 finishes in a row, he’s one away from tying the longest most consecutive top-10 finishes streak of the year. Power banked a top-10 in each of the year’s first eight races through Texas.
  • Castroneves has not scored a top-10 finish in any of the last four races. In that time frame, Castroneves went from leading Power 512-484 to trailing him 626-575, for a 79-point swing in the championship chase.
  • Others of note in relative droughts, finishing-wise: Marco Andretti hasn’t posted a top-five since the Indianapolis 500 (12 races) Justin Wilson hasn’t since Detroit race 1 (11 races) and Briscoe hasn’t since Pocono (six races).
  • Hunter-Reay’s runner-up snapped a four-race drought of top-five finishes; Pagenaud’s podium was his first non-win top-three this season.
  • Mike Conway ends his season with 252 points, which from only 12 races started was only 13 points less than Sebastian Saavedra – the lowest-scoring driver in all 17 races – has managed. That’s with two of Saavedra’s races that Conway did not enter (500-milers at Indianapolis, Pocono) paying double points.
  • With the road and street course portion of the schedule complete, here’s a final rundown of the points achieved in those races (note E is for Engine, C for Chevrolet, H for Honda, with Round numbers across the top):

 

# Driver E 1 2 3 4 6 7 9 10 13 14 15 17 Pts
12 Power C 53 40 32 24 51 41 16 19 22 36 28 24 386
77 Pagenaud H 30 30 32 51 8 28 16 51 33 8 22 35 344
9 Dixon C 32 19 36 15 20 32 11 12 30 26 53 51 337
28 Hunter-Reay H 40 14 53 41 14 11 26 28 9 16 21 40 313
3 Castroneves C 36 19 11 36 34 53 22 13 41 21 11 12 309
11 Bourdais C 17 16 15 33 17 10 32 30 54 22 42 19 307
10 Kanaan C 28 12 22 20 35 22 17 20 35 40 9 18 278
83 Kimball C 10 7 20 30 22 35 12 32 26 32 26 9 261
27 Hinchcliffe H 11 9 26 10 28 32 33 16 24 12 36 18 255
19 J.Wilson H 24 14 29 20 32 18 21 18 20 21 15 22 254
20 Conway C 15 51 16 11 9 20 13 17 15 51 17 17 252
2 Montoya C 15 32 9 14 18 17 40 26 12 11 19 31 244
25 Andretti H 8 24 41 16 21 14 24 22 14 24 8 24 240
98 Hawksworth H 9 15 18 29 11 17 28 35 17 28 14 15 236
8 Briscoe C 20 13 19 28 16 20 18 24 18 19 24 13 232
34 Munoz H 13 35 7 6 26 24 35 8 13 13 32 11 223
15 Rahal H 16 17 13 9 41 9 19 14 28 10 30 11 217
7 Aleshin H 18 28 8 5 14 27 7 41 19 7 16 26 216
18 Huertas H 12 20 14 17 24 15 51 7 16 15 13 8 212
14 Sato H 28 8 17 22 12 14 9 11 7 30 12 33 203
67 Newgarden H 22 12 24 13 10 13 10 10 10 18 19 29 190
17 Saavedra C 19 23 13 8 16 8 15 13 11 9 10 14 159
16 Servia H 26 10 19 55
16 Filippi H 9 15 8 14 46
41 Plowman H 12 12
26 Montagny H 8 8
  • The Firestone Fast Six qualifying portion of the season is over as well. Final tabulations on who made how many of the nine sessions (the three doubleheader weekends offered a different qualifying format for Race 2): Power 6, Hunter-Reay 6, Castroneves 5, Dixon 5, Hinchcliffe 5, Pagenaud 4, Newgarden 4, Kanaan 3, Bourdais 3, Hawksworth 3, Briscoe 2, Sato 2, Montoya 1, Saavedra 1, Filippi 1, Conway 1, Andretti 1, Munoz 1.
  • Mikhail Aleshin, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson made it into the top six in the second race of a doubleheader weekend, but not into a single Firestone Fast Six. Charlie Kimball nor Carlos Huertas didn’t make it to the top six on any road or street circuit.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).