Pippa Mann revels in career-best IndyCar finish at Fontana

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Finishing 13th in her Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Pippa Mann enjoyed the best showing of her IndyCar career in Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

“It is nice to bring home a top-15 for the team and to earn my best career Indy car finish,” Mann said. “I’m glad to get a good result for these guys.

“We were not the fastest car out there, but the team did a great job improving the car for me during the pit stops. The car was better and better as the race went on.”

Saturday was Mann’s third race this season – all ovals – for the Coyne team. She was 22nd in the Indianapolis 500 and 17th at Texas.

“The crew on my car did a great job with the strategy and the changes at the pit stops throughout the afternoon,” Mann said, adding, ” which allowed us to improve our pace throughout the race, and have a good second half of the race.

“We ended up with a great car over long runs, and that’s when I was really able to start working my way back up through the order.

“Some of the racing out there was a little on the gnarly side, and I’m extremely glad the guys who got caught up in those big incidents towards the end of the race are all okay.

“… Overall I’m just really proud of my guys, and the entire 18 crew. They did a great job again this weekend, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to come and run another IndyCar race for them.”

Given her success thus far this season, might Mann have more races ahead?

Three of the remaining five races on the IndyCar schedule are on ovals (Milwaukee, Iowa and Pocono), along with road course races at Mid-Ohio and the season finale at Sonoma.

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Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.