Castroneves leads Indy 500 at halfway mark under third round of pit stops

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INDIANAPOLIS – Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud have been the three primary leaders thus far in the 99th Indianapolis 500, as the race reaches its halfway point of 100 laps complete, and 100 to go.

However it was Helio Castroneves who led the race after running a lap later on the third pit stop sequence at the halfway mark.

Thus far the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion has not been as on pace, or close to the lead trio, as expected. The same is true for teammate Will Power.

Following the frantic and chaotic start that saw nearly a half dozen cars taken out of contention, the race settled down for a fair bit as the leaders ran to their first stint.

Dixon, who led the majority of the opening 35 laps, was first to pit from the lead having burned more fuel out front. It’s a bit of a conundrum for Dixon, renowned as a fuel saving master, but following up on others who have struggled to save fuel once in the lead.

Any of Dixon, Pagenaud and Kanaan held the top spot until the halfway mark, before their stops.

Pagenaud’s Team Penske crew got the No. 22 Avaya Chevrolet out ahead of Dixon’s No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the second round of pit stops. But Kanaan got them both courtesy of a two-in-one pass for the lead into Turn 1 on Lap 73.

At Lap 100, Castroneves led from Pagenaud, Power, Dixon and Kimball.

Some big movers thus far have included Kimball (14th to fifth as of Lap 91), Juan Pablo Montoya (15th to seventh, and particularly impressive after incurring some right rear wheel guard damage early that dropped him to 30th), Graham Rahal (17th to eighth, top Honda) and NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell (23rd to 14th in his only IndyCar start of the year).

Of note, the inside right front tire changer for Bryan Herta Autosport, Eric Wainscott, had both knees evaluated after an incident in pit lane. INDYCAR Race Control announced there would be a post-race review for the incident, involving the team’s rookie driver Gabby Chaves.

Also, the second accident of the race occurred when Bryan Clauson crashed on Lap 64 in the KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Chevrolet exiting Turn 4.

Wainscott and Clauson were both checked, cleared and released.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.