Verizon IndyCar Series 2016 midseason report

Getty Images
0 Comments

As the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), here’s a quick primer on where we sit heading into the start of the second half of the season:

PAGENAUD’S ROLL OF FORM

As we’ve chronicled, Simon Pagenaud is off to the best start of his IndyCar career. With three wins and three second-place finishes in eight races, Pagenaud has built up an 80-point lead in the standings. His No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, which has seen Hewlett Packard Enterprise, DeVilbiss, PPG Automotive Refinish and Menards adorning it any point this season, has been the class of the field.

Provided he and the team keep their foot on the gas and don’t fall into the trap of “points racing” too much, Pagenaud is the favorite to secure his first IndyCar title.

ROSSI’S SURPRISE INDY 500 WIN

The question preseason was how late signing Alexander Rossi would adapt to IndyCar, as Michael Andretti’s team brought in the personnel and strategic expertise of his past teammate Bryan Herta into the group. Consider it the most pleasant surprise of the season thus far.

The 100th Indianapolis 500 win, obviously, will stand out as the marquee moment of the season for this group. But just as impressive has been quite how well the melding of people has occurred and the expectation shift in terms of results. Where top-10s would have been welcomed in April, they’re now considered simply not good enough in June. Rossi has a firm grasp on the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors and will only look to add to his accolades as the year rolls on.

DESPITE AERO WOES, STILL GOOD VARIETY

The racing with this year’s aero kits was admittedly subpar for the first three and a half races. St. Petersburg, Phoenix and Long Beach saw limited passing, while Barber wasn’t brilliant until the final stint of the race.

However the last four events have been better. The Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis had a good mix of passing and strategy played out, the Indianapolis 500 was typically exciting and Detroit had enough of a mix to keep things interesting.

And aside of Pagenaud, there’s still been good variety up front. With six winners and 13 total podium finishers in the first eight races – all teams except A.J. Foyt Enterprises have at least one podium finish – it hasn’t been a whitewash in form too much up front from any one team.

PENSKE’S OTHER THREE DRIVER ROLLER COASTER

Besides Pagenaud, the other three drivers for Team Penske have lacked consistency. Here’s the results in order for Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Will Power:

  • Montoya: 1, 9, 4, 5, 8, 33, 3, 20
  • Castroneves: 4, 11, 3, 7, 2, 11, 5, 14
  • Power: DNS, 3, 7, 4, 19, 10, 20, 1

Seems hard to believe that Montoya, of those three, is the only driver with back-to-back top-five finishes at any point this year. Castroneves is third, Power seventh and Montoya ninth in points thus far owing to that roller coaster ride. Power is on the verge of finding his form again after a tough few events – he’s prone to going on hot streaks and with realistically nothing to lose at this point, he can go for it. Same for Montoya. Castroneves is due a win though as it’s been now two-plus years since his most recent triumph.

GANASSI’S QUARTET ON VERGE OF BIGGER THINGS

You feel that in one of the next few events – maybe Texas, maybe Iowa, maybe Mid-Ohio – that Chip Ganassi Racing Teams will have a monster weekend. Scott Dixon has done his usual consistency and pace play with eight top-10s in as many races – the only driver to do so this year. Second place, 80 points back of Pagenaud, has him positioned once again for a typical second half Scott Dixon surge.

Tony Kanaan has seven top-10s but no podiums. Charlie Kimball has seven top-12s but no podiums. Rookie Max Chilton was decent early but endured a nightmare Detroit double DNF weekend. Kanaan ranks eighth, Kimball 10th in points.

THE “YOUR RESULTS AREN’T AS GOOD AS YOUR DRIVING AWARD” GOES TO…

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport. Hunter-Reay enters the second half of the season 13th in points and that might be the most misleading stat of the year.

He made arguably the pass of the race at St. Petersburg to end third. He was the only Honda with even a remote chance in Phoenix having driven his tail off of the No. 28 DHL Honda, but was caught out by two ill-timed yellow flags. He got collected with his teammate in pit lane at the Indianapolis 500 and ended 24th.

Only at Long Beach, a track he usually thrives, was Hunter-Reay truly off pace after starting 11th and ending 18th. But put more of that down to Andretti Autosport’s then-mechanical grip issues as to why the team struggled so badly.

He won at Iowa and Pocono last year and he’s also done well in Toronto and Mid-Ohio before. I’d be shocked if “RHR” isn’t in top-five contention in points from here; consider just 67 points separate second from 14th.

HONORABLE MENTION GOES TO RLL RACING HERE

Like Hunter-Reay, fellow American Graham Rahal has been similarly unlucky from a results standpoint thus far. It’s strange that with four top-fives he’s 12th in points. But getting speared at St. Petersburg, then losing a grid spot at the Indy GP, then having to avoid multiple accidents at the Indianapolis 500, then brake line issues and an ill-timed yellow in Detroit, means that Rahal has been far better than 12th best this year.

NEWGARDEN’S IN TITLE CONTENTION

Fourth thus far for Josef Newgarden and the Ed Carpenter Racing team have positioned the likable young American, like points leader Simon Pagenaud, up for what is truly his first run at an IndyCar title. Like last year, the question may be how well can they carry the momentum while also worrying about Newgarden’s future with the team – his contract with ECR expires at the end of the year.

OTHER NOTES OF THE FIELD THUS FAR

  • It was cool to see Sebastien Bourdais and KVSH Racing win in Detroit. Few know how close that team came to not even making the grid this year, but after the team’s reshuffling in the offseason, they’re now poised for a big second half.
  • Carlos Munoz remains IndyCar’s enigma at Andretti Autosport. He’s driving incredibly well at the moment, but made those notable mistakes in the early races. Can he package the consistency to balance his undoubted and improving speed?
  • The improvement from James Hinchcliffe and the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda has been evident. Now it’s time to see whether the popular Canadian can keep it up through his first tour of duty with SPM in the second half of the year, since he was injured last year.
  • Conor Daly has overachieved more often than not at Dale Coyne Racing and combined with newish teammate Gabby Chaves, can IndyCar’s perennial underdog continue to punch above their weight?
  • The two “MAs” couldn’t be more polar opposites. Mikhail Aleshin has been exciting to watch but erratic and inconsistent in his IndyCar return. Marco Andretti meanwhile has flown under the radar nearly all year. He’s finished each of the eight races, yet none higher than ninth.
  • Can either Takuma Sato or Jack Hawksworth deliver a result for the likable Larry Foyt-led A.J. Foyt Enterprises team?

STATS OF NOTE

  • Six winners, seven other podium finishers thus far. Total of 17 drivers with one top-five, 20 with one top-10.
  • First to second in points gap: 80 points. Second to 14th: 67 points.
  • DNFs: 8 in the Indianapolis 500. The remaining seven races? 14 total.
  • 14 different drivers have made at least one Firestone Fast Six (Montoya, Castroneves, Power, Pagenaud, Hinchcliffe, Dixon, Kanaan, Kimball, Bourdais, Rahal, Newgarden, Munoz, Hunter-Reay, Hawksworth) and Pagenaud is the only driver to have made all five Fast Six sessions.
  • Laps Led: Pagenaud 292, Dixon 158, Castroneves 127 and Montoya 113 – 690 of 952 total laps (72.48 percent).
  • Laps Led by Manufacturers: Chevrolet 777, Honda 175.

REMAINING SCHEDULE

  • June 11, Texas, NBCSN 8pm
  • June 26, Road America, NBCSN 12:30pm
  • July 10, Iowa, NBCSN 5pm
  • July 17, Toronto, CNBC 3pm
  • July 31, Mid-Ohio, CNBC 2pm
  • August 21, Pocono, NBCSN 3pm
  • Sept. 4, Watkins Glen, NBCSN TBD
  • Sept. 18, Sonoma, NBCSN 7pm

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

0 Comments

After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage