IndyCar: Stats to digest through Barber, and first four races of 2015

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Through four races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, there have been plenty of stats that have emerged and really proven only one thing: no one team is dominant.

The concerning, early-race narrative has been that Team Penske’s pace has been too much to match. And while yes, the team is a perfect four-for-four in pole positions and front row sweeps (seven poles and five front row sweeps in a row dating to 2014), the Penske prowess hasn’t carried over to race day entirely.

Several other Chevrolet teams – Chip Ganassi Racing, KVSH Racing and CFH Racing – have really stepped up from a performance standpoint and are right on pace. It’s meant that Honda’s best – notably Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Andretti Autosport – have been seventh or eighth, there or thereabouts, on pace before moving forward in the race.

But in looking a bit deeper at the stats, the parity is still prevalent through the first quarter of the season, and in some respects, it’s improved through four races this year compared to 2014.

Here are the stats of note:

  • Closer points standings. Last year, 47 points separated the top four in points through four races (149-102). This year, 45 cover first through 10th (136-91), from Juan Pablo Montoya to Sebastien Bourdais. Just 17 cover first to fourth, Montoya to Josef Newgarden.
  • More podium finishers. Each of the last two years there have been a wealth of different podium finishers (19 in 2014, 20 in 2013). We’re already off to a good start this year with nine from the first four races, trending one ahead of last year when there were eight in the first four races.
  • Same four-for-four winners streak, with four new winners. There were 11 winners last year in 18 races, and 10 winners in 19 races in 2013. Last year opened with four winners from four different teams in four races (Will Power, Penske, Mike Conway, Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Peterson), and so has this year, with four different drivers (Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske, James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson, Scott Dixon, Ganassi, Josef Newgarden, CFH).
  • No front row winners yet. Your winning starting positions thus far in 2015? In order, fourth, 16th, third and fifth.
  • Barber’s best day, statistically. There were eight race leaders and 10 lead changes Sunday at Barber, which broke the old records of six (2014) and nine (2012), respectively.
  • Fewer yellows. The first two races this year: 57 laps: 11 cautions, 48 laps, 8 DNF. The last two races in 170 laps: 3 cautions, 13 laps, 0 DNF. At Barber, and a hat tip to my colleague Steve Wittich for this stat, 35 percent of the field led the race and all but two possible laps were completed.
  • Dixon’s perfect podium but winless streak at Barber lives. One of the most obscure and amazing stats in IndyCar: Scott Dixon is a perfect six-for-six at Barber in terms of podium finishes, without a win. His third on Sunday followed four straight seconds from 2010 to 2013, and a third last year.
  • Top-10 finish numbers. No single driver has four top-10s in four races. Four drivers who have completed all four races, Charlie Kimball, Stefano Coletti, Gabby Chaves and Francesco Dracone, have gone the four races without a single top-10 finish.
  • Andretti’s strange stats start. Sunday all three Andretti Autosport drivers posted top-10s at Barber. But the team has not yet led a lap in four races, with any of its four drivers.
  • Chevrolet still pacing the laps led. Through 327 laps completed this year, Chevrolet has led 285 laps, and Honda 42.
  • Penske’s quartet has led more than half the total laps. Helio Castroneves is the only driver to have led a lap in all four races (1, 1, 31 and 18), with his total of 51 laps led shy of teammates Will Power (75) and Juan Pablo Montoya (59). Simon Pagenaud has led 5 to give the team a total of 190 laps led in 327 total laps (58.1 percent of all laps).
  • Penske, Chevrolet Firestone Fast Six prowess continues. Of 18 possible Firestone Fast Six appearances: Team Penske 10, all other teams 8 (was split 3-3 at Barber). By engine/aero kit, the breakdown is Chevrolet 16, Honda 2.
  • Still four with four top-10 starts in four races. Castroneves, Pagenaud, Bourdais and Tony Kanaan are the four drivers with four top-10 starts in as many races to open the year.
  • Consistent Chaves should be No. 17. He’s in the No. 98 for Bryan Herta Autosport, but leading rookie driver this year, Gabby Chaves, could argue No. 17 has been his most regular number. His starts this year have been 22nd, 17th, 17th and 17th, with finishes of 17th, 15th, 17th and 16th. He’s 18th in points, only one point behind 17th placed-Jack Hawksworth
  • Simona’s points haul still endures. In two races, Simona de Silvestro has 44 points and ranks 20th. In four races, Stefano Coletti has 41 and ranks 21st.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.