Turn 1 mess. Photo: IndyCar

Quartet of IndyCar rookies banked top-10s at Watkins Glen

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The man at the top of the results chart for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi was a familiar figure who’s won 40 races and is arguably the driver of his generation, in Scott Dixon, who’s only 36 yet still seems to have an incredible future ahead of him even after 16 full-time years in the championship.

Several of the other slightly younger drivers in the top 10 though might be the drivers of IndyCar’s future.

In second, 25-year-old Josef Newgarden banked his first runner-up finish of the season and fourth overall podium in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing.

And then there was the quartet of first-year IndyCar drivers who made it four rookies in the top-10, on a day when fuel saving and smart, mature beyond their years driving paid dividends.

Conor Daly, 24, brought the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda home in fourth, just missing the podium after needing to save fuel through to the finish. He started 17th. Engineer Michael Cannon breathed a heavy sigh of relief afterwards on pit road as both driver and team were amazed at how they pulled it off.

In eighth after starting 15th was Alexander Rossi, also 24, in the No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda, thus securing a season-best result on a road or street course for him this season. Knowing Rossi though, that’s a stat he would not want to repeat in 2017, wherever he suits up.

Ninth, meanwhile, over the moon after his first top-10 finish in only his second IndyCar start was RC Enerson, the 19-year-old in Dale Coyne Racing’s second car, the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda. He’d started 11th and if anything, was unlucky to end ninth – his start was simply phenomenal as he was up to sixth place by the end of the opening lap.

Completing the top-10 was 25-year-old Max Chilton in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, who like Enerson could could have counted himself unlucky to have not finished higher after rolling off from sixth and his first career Firestone Fast Six. The Englishman, who wore a James Hunt tribute helmet, got hit at the first corner which compromised his steering, but he held on for the rest of the race. He ran as high as second but slipped back late owing to a final splash of fuel.

Daly, Rossi and Chilton are the three full-season Sunoco Rookie of the Year entrants and this marked the first time all three of them have been in the top-10 in the same race.

Said Daly afterwards, “I really just can’t believe that we ended up fourth! It was a back and forth race with all kinds of stuff going on. But our car was fast, we knew it all weekend. We just had horrible luck. At the end they said we were making the right fuel number and I was making up positions and then I was told we could go a little bit quicker, so one lap we used a bit more fuel and then they came on the radio and said ‘code red’. If we would’ve saved a little bit more on that one lap we maybe could have held off Helio. I had no idea where we were, third or fourth or fifth, but at the end of the day, I’ll take fourth!”

Rossi said of his day, “I think it was a decent race. We had to save a lot of fuel there at the end, so I think a potential top five slipped through our hands because of that. But generally I think with a disappointing qualifying, that is the best that we could come up with. We’ll have to take this result and move on to Sonoma.”

Lastly, Chilton said of his, “It was a day that could have been fantastic but ended up slightly disappointing after running P2. I got damage on lap 1 turn 1 with the steering and then for the rest of the race my pace was pretty decent considering I was held back by the issue.”

With this result, Rossi is 11th in points (370) and leads Daly (295, 16th) by 75 points heading to the double points season finale for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award. That’s a perhaps misleading stat because Rossi gained 104 points more than Daly at the Indianapolis 500 with his win while Daly ended 29th in the other double points race; excluding that, Daly’s outscored his countryman this season. Chilton sits 19th with 239 points and cannot win the award.

Then we get to the two drivers who have been on partial campaigns but are impressing at times – Enerson and Spencer Pigot.

Enerson was amazed at where he ended up in the first corner after starting 11th.

“I knew everyone would barrel down in there,” he told NBC Sports post-race. “I tried to break a little bit early to get the run out. But then I shot a gap, and I was out in sixth, and then I was like, ‘There’s only five cars in front of me!'”

He fell back after the timing of the first yellow but recovered the rest of the way on strategy owing to the fuel saving. By finishing ninth with Daly’s fourth, it marked the first double Coyne top-10 finish in a race since Houston race one, June 2014… a race won by Carlos Huertas with the late Justin Wilson in 10th.

Pigot, who was in the newly reliveried Samsung colors of his No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, ended 15th after starting 21st. He was on the wrong side of fuel saving, though, and fell back towards the end as a result.

“We were looking good to get a top-10 finish but after we had to start saving fuel we fell back,” said the 2015 Indy Lights and 2014 Pro Mazda champion. “It was a bit of a shame we had to start saving so much. We couldn’t keep the pace up and save fuel, so we fell back to 15th.

“But It was a lot of fun, I had some great battles out there. The car was really good and the guys gave me excellent pit stops. It was great to have Samsung come on board this weekend and also thanks to Fuzzy’s Vodka, Rising Star Racing, Mockett and everyone else that makes this happen.”

Todd LeDuc advances two positions in Monster Jam Power Rankings

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Neil Elliott held onto the top spot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings, but he has a new driver sniffing his exhaust as Todd Leduc advanced two positions to second this week.

The Stadium Series Green continues to hold the advantage in the Power Rankings with Elliott topping the chart, Morgan Kane in fourth, and Ryan Anderson eighth, but there is an equitable distribution among the other series throughout the field.

Notably, Leduc and his Monster Energy truck in the Stadium Series Red closed the gap with a 38-point overall victory at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Leduc achieved his win through consistency, pocketing the overall without winning a single individual event. Leduc’s best session was a second-place finish to Mike Vaters II in Overkill Evolution by .001 points.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, Elliott rambled on. Elliott won his sixth skills challenge in seven contests so far. That contributed to his 35 points for the event at PETCO Park in San Diego and allowed him to hold onto the No. 1 slot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings.

Colton Eichelberger also held station. Third last week, he entered the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on a mission in the Triple Threat Series Central. He topped the event points in all four events with timed race wins in each session, ATV race wins in three of the four, three wins in the speedster obstacle course, two freestyle wins and one win in the donut competitions.

MORE: Ryan Anderson and the anatomy of a Monster Jam freestyle run

Morgan Kane and Grave Digger had a rough night. He was ousted from the racing event in Round 2 by Max-D and Elliott. He failed to win either of the other two competitions of the night and ended with 29 points, which was a distant third to Ryan Anderson’s Son-Uva Digger (37) and Max-D (35).

Brandon Vinson moved up to the fifth position with three wins in the Triple Threat Series West. During the weekend he earned seven session wins, including a sweep of the speedster obstacle course and two victories in the two-wheel skills challenge.

Tom Meents debuted on the Monster Jam Power Rankings in 10th by winning the overall in back to back nights of the Stadium Series Yellow. The Saturday show can be seen Feb. 22 at 11:30 p.m. on NBCSN (click here for streaming). The highlight of Meents’ weekend were race wins on Saturday and Sunday, defeating Coty Saucier in a Monster Energy truck on Night 1 and Eric Swanson in Obsessed on Night 2.

Power Rankings

1. Neil Elliott–same
2. Todd LeDuc–up 2
3. Colton Eichelberger-same
4. Morgan Kane–down 2
5. Brandon Vinson–up 1
6. Tyler Menninga–up 1
7. Coty Saucier–down 2
8. Ryan Anderson–same
9. Linsey Read–up 1
10. Tom Meents-new for 2020

Upcoming TV Schedule (All showings on Eastern time on NBCSN)

Oakland: February 22 (Saturday); 11:30 p.m.
Miami: March 1 (Sunday); 12 a.m.
Jacksonville: March 9 (Monday); 6 p.m.
Detroit: March 21 (Saturday); 11 p.m.
Las Vegas: March 28 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Santa Clara: April 11 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: April 17 (Friday); 2:30 p.m.
Denver: April 25 (Saturday); 6:30 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals Racing: May 9 (Saturday); 5 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: May 19 (Tuesday); 4 p.m.
Monster Jam World Freestyle: May 20 (Wednesday); 12 a.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: June 20 (Saturday); 2:30 p.m.