INDYCAR: Indianapolis 500 recap

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And just like that, the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 is now in the history books, and the Verizon IndyCar Series switches gears to full championship mode the rest of the way.

Sunday was most certainly different than previous years in the DW-12 era. Gone was the slip-streaming madness that created lead changes seemingly on every lap and in its place was a more tactical race defined by car setup, race strategy and surviving slick conditions produced by an incredibly hot day.

Yet while very different in nature, this year was equally as enthralling, nail-biting and intriguing as any that we’ve seen in recent years, thanks in part to a genuinely great driver checking off the only missing box on his resume, a host of strategy plays that put some unexpected names near the front, a number of big names encountering problems and much more.

A recap of talking points from the 102nd Indy 500:

Power’s Storied Career Is Now Finally Complete

Will Power celebrates his victory in the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo: IndyCar

“DJ Willy P” has been one of the best Verizon IndyCar Series drivers of his generation for a very long time. Power’s victory tally sits at 34, and 31 have come with Team Penske, making him their winningest IndyCar driver ever. Sunday’s win put him one clear of Helio Castroneves.

With 51 poles, Power is something of a qualifying master, a facet of his driving that has been at the forefront ever since he joined Penske in 2009.

And with a championship to his name in 2014, Power had checked off every significant box an IndyCar driver can … except one.

The Indianapolis 500 had always eluded him, and outside of a second-place effort to Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 – a race in which Power was a strong contender for victory – Power’s Indy 500 history was far from stellar.

He left the pits early after his first pit stop in 2010 and took part of the fuel buckeye with him (he eventually finished eighth). In 2011, he again left the pits early, this time before the left-rear tire had been secured, and it fell off immediately after he left the pits (he eventually finished 14th).

He crashed out in 2012 and was a non-factor in 2013, ’14, and ’16 (he finished 19th, eighth, and 10th those years), and he crashed out again in ’17.

And, despite a 2011 victory at Texas Motor Speedway, his oval prowess wasn’t a strong suit of his early career either. Case in point: In 2012, he had four finishes of 12th or worse on ovals, featuring three crashes, including one at the season finale at Auto Club Speedway. The combination of those issues cost him a championship that year to Ryan Hunter-Reay.

But recent years have seen him become an oval-meister. He has wins at Auto Club (2013), The Milwaukee Mile (2014), Pocono Raceway (2016 and 2017) and Texas Motor Speedway (2017).

Still, a lack of success at Indy remained a black eye on an otherwise stellar career…until Sunday.

Indeed, Sunday’s victory cements Power’s legacy as one of the sport’s genuine greats. And his emotions afterward demonstrate how much it means to him.

“Overwhelming,” Power said. “Amazing. It’s funny, you forget where you are, you’re so immersed in the race. You don’t even realize. On the white-flag lap, I started screaming because I just knew I was going to win it. Unbelievable. Never been so excited.”

At 37, Power may be on the back end of his career. But while he admitted an Indy win was the last thing on his list, don’t expect him to back off any time soon.

“It was the last box to tick, to be considered as a very successful driver,” he asserted. “I’m not done. I’m not done. Like, I still have plenty of time left to win more 500s and championships and races.”

Power now leads the championship by two points over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

Hot, Slick Conditions and Low Downforce Take Toll on Some Big Names

Danica Patrick was one of many to crash as a result hot, slick conditions. Photo: IndyCar

Sunday’s Indy 500 was the second hottest on record, and the combination of heat, high track temperatures, altered weight distribution on the cars and lower downforce wreaked havoc.

Danica Patrick, Ed Jones, Sebastien Bourdais, Sage Karam, Helio Castroneves, and Tony Kanaan all spun by themselves – Patrick, Jones, and Kanaan exiting Turn 2, with Karam, Bourdais, and Castroneves doing so in Turns 3 and 4.

Throw in James Davison (whose roll bar adjuster reportedly malfunctioned) and his crash with Takuma Sato, and you have no fewer than seven incidents on-track … nearly all of which were sparked by tricky conditions.

Debate has already begun about what could be done to improve things for next year. Regardless, Sunday’s race was an exhibition in car control on a track that wanted to inflict punishment. And some big names, and their cars, left Indy definitely feeling punished.

Underdogs Nearly Have Their Day

While the powerhouse Team Penske operation took its 17th Indy 500 victory, adding to their already immense record, several smaller teams nearly pulled off a big upset.

Ed Carpenter may have had the best car on Sunday, leading a race-high 65 laps, but a pit stop sequence allowed Power to get ahead of him, and he never was able to find his way back around, ultimately settling for second.

And in the final laps, Oriol Servia, Stefan Wilson, and Jack Harvey found themselves 1-2-3 before a restart with seven laps remaining.

All three had gone off-strategy to do so, but they appeared to have just enough pace to stay up front in the event their fuel lasted.

Servia, driving for Indy 500 debutants Scuderia Corsa (aligned with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) led 12 laps.

Stefan Wilson, in a one-off entry for Andretti Autosport, led three laps after taking the lead from Servia on the aforementioned restart. Wilson’s moment in the sun was particularly heartwarming, given the difficulty he has faced in recent years, both in his driving career (he gave up an Indy 500 ride last year to allow Fernando Alonso to participate) and, of course, following the death of older brother Justin.

Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing deserve kudos as well for giving it a shot, and they ran second in the final laps behind Wilson.

All three ended up pitting for splashes of fuel, and finished 15th (Wilson), 16th (Harvey), and 17th (Servia).

But, their presence at the front created a refreshing surprise that added a perfect amount of late-race drama.

Misc.

  • Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi combined to have the two best drives of the day. Rahal finished 10th after starting 30th, leading 12 laps, while Rossi came home a remarkable fourth after starting 32nd. Their charges through the field were mighty impressive, and Rossi was worth the price of admission by himself with a pair of outside moves on late-race restarts. Both will be disappointed to miss out on victories, but they and their teams have a lot to be proud of for good results from troublesome starting spots.
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay had one of the quietest drives to fifth place ever. The 2014 Indy 500 winner was in the top five prior to the halfway point but never could get up with the other leaders to mount a real challenge for the lead. Nevertheless, the result was a nice shot in the arm that helped him immensely in the championship.
  • Kudos should be given to the four rookies. Robert Wickens (ninth), Matheus Leist (13th), and Zachary Claman De Melo (17th) all finished with solid days. And while Kyle Kaiser didn’t make the end (due to a mechanical failure), he kept his nose clean prior to that and deserved more than to see his day end early.
  • It was genuinely sad to see Danica Patrick’s racing career end with a crash. Regardless, she made a positive impact on the sport in several ways, and her presence will be missed.

With that, attention now turns to the Raceway at Belle Isle Park for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, the lone doubleheader of the IndyCar season.

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

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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