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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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