Castroneves ends as IndyCar’s top-scoring driver on ovals in 2017

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With his future in the Verizon IndyCar Series uncertain beyond 2017, it’s worth noting Helio Castroneves remains on top of his game and statistics help bare that out.

In his 20th season, Castroneves ended this year as the top-scoring driver in the six oval races this year, with a fourth place finish in Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Granted, the result could have been better as he led 52 laps but then made a key mistake on a pit stop, the car going into neutral and needing to get restarted. Castroneves was deflated post-race.

Still, his Iowa win broke a three-plus year winless drought, and with other top-10 finishes of fourth (Phoenix and Gateway), second (Indianapolis 500) and seventh (Pocono) in four of the other five oval races ensured he scored the most points – 252 – in these six races. He crashed at Texas, which was his only finish outside the top-seven.

Will Power had led the oval points going into Gateway, but spun out once the race eventually started following a pre-race delay. Prior to Gateway, he had the Pocono and Texas wins, a second-place at Phoenix and a fourth in Iowa. He scored 232 points on ovals, which offset his only 86 points scored in the five street course races this year – just 14th in the field.

Josef Newgarden’s Gateway win vaulted him from 14th in oval points scored up to seventh with 198. A tough Indianapolis 500 result along with issues at both Phoenix and Texas helped hamper the oval totals for the overall points leader, who was the top-scoring driver on street courses.

The fourth member of Team Penske, Simon Pagenaud, wore the consistency crown with his Phoenix win and four other oval top-10 finishes – third at Gateway and Texas, fourth in Pocono and seventh at Iowa – to end fourth in oval points scored with 226, one behind Tony Kanaan in third.

Kanaan finished sixth, fifth, second, ninth and fifth in the five prior oval races prior to Gateway, when his pre-race spin sent him backwards for the rest of the night. Like his Brazilian countryman Castroneves, Kanaan still remains an oval ace at this level.

Castroneves, Power, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Takuma Sato scored poles on the six oval races this year. Team Penske and Chevrolet locked out the short oval poles at Phoenix, Iowa and Gateway – Power going last in qualifying at Iowa and Gateway to secure his two poles – while Dixon, Kimball and Sato gave Honda the three poles on the ovals 1.5 miles or greater.

Sato and Dixon were the fifth and sixth highest scoring drivers on ovals this season, Sato’s numbers aided considerably by the 137 points he scored by winning the double-points Indianapolis 500. Outside of that win, the likable driver finished 10th or worse in each of the five other oval races.

Behind Newgarden, Alexander Rossi was a more consistent top finishing driver on ovals, even though he only had the eighth highest point total. A third at Pocono was his best result, with other top-10s coming at Gateway (sixth) and Indianapolis (seventh).

Ed Carpenter Racing teammates JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter ended the year ninth and 10th among oval scorers, even despite both cars failing to finish Saturday night in Gateway with heavy accidents.

The oval points tallies for the year are below.

# Driver 4 6 9 11 14 15 T
3 Castroneves C 34 96 10 53 26 33 252
12 Power C 41 41 53 34 51 12 232
10 Kanaan H 28 91 41 22 31 14 227
1 Pagenaud C 53 43 35 27 32 36 226
26 Sato H 14 137 20 14 18 11 214
9 Dixon H 30 53 23 24 31 40 201
2 Newgarden C 23 34 18 29 41 53 198
98 Rossi H 15 91 8 19 36 28 197
21 Hildebrand C 35 61 18 41 12 12 179
20 Carpenter C 26 79 19 18 18 9 169
15 Rahal H 9 57 32 30 23 18 169
19 Jones H 19 93 13 12 13 17 167
27 Andretti H 12 76 28 14 20 16 166
8 Chilton H 10 86 25 17 12 14 164
28 Hunter-Reay H 17 35 11 35 25 15 138
14 Munoz C 20 50 12 10 20 22 134
5 Hinchcliffe H 18 33 16 20 11 24 122
83 Kimball H 24 29 11 16 14 26 120
4 Daly C 16 18 26 11 16 30 117
88 Chaves C 53 30 15 98
7 Aleshin H 13 55 15 9 92
22 Montoya C 73 73
7 Saavedra H 33 9 19 61
29 Alonso H 47 47
16 Servia H 40 40
63 Mann H 32 32
18 Bourdais H 11 21 32
11 Pigot C 29 29
18 Gutierrez H 17 8 25
77 Howard H 24 24
24 Karam C 23 23
18 Davison H 21 21
50 Harvey H 17 17
18 Vautier H 15 15
44 B.Lazier C 14 14
40 Veach C 12 12

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”