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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

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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