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2014 Standings
After Pocono
Driver Standings

1 Will Power 446
2 Helio Castroneves 446
3 Simon Pagenaud 402
4 Juan Pablo Montoya 391
5 Ryan Hunter-Reay 388
6 Carlos Munoz (R) 340
7 Marco Andretti 325
8 Scott Dixon 297
9 Ryan Briscoe 285
10 Sebastien Bourdais 271
11 Tony Kanaan 267
12 James Hinchcliffe 266
13 Mikhail Aleshin 263
14 Justin Wilson 253
15 Charlie Kimball 239
16 Jack Hawksworth 227
17 Carlos Huertas (R) 224
18 Josef Newgarden 220
19 Graham Rahal 202
20 Sebastian Saavedra 196
21 Takuma Sato 189
22 Mike Conway 152
23 Ed Carpenter 138
24 Oriol Servia 88
25 Kurt Busch (R) 80
26 JR Hildebrand 66
27 Sage Karam (R) 57
28 James Davison (R) 34
29 Jacques Villeneuve 29
30 Alex Tagliani 28
31 Luca Filippi 24
32 Townsend Bell 22
33 Pippa Mann 21
34 Martin Plowman (R) 18
35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8

Rookie of the Year
1 Carlos Munoz 340
2 Mikhail Aleshin 263
3 Jack Hawksworth 217
4 Carlos Huertas 204
5 Kurt Busch 80
6 Sage Karam 57
7 James Davison 34
8 Martin Plowman 18

Wins
T1 Ryan Hunter-Reay 2
T1 Will Power 2
T1 Simon Pagenaud 2
T4 Mike Conway 1
T4 Helio Castroneves 1
T4 Carlos Huertas 1
T4 Ed Carpenter 1
T4 Juan Pablo Montoya 1

Podium Finishes
T1 Will Power 5
T1 Helio Castroneves 5
2 Ryan Hunter-Reay 4
T3 Carlos Munoz 3
T3 Juan Pablo Montoya 3
T6 Marco Andretti 2
T6 Simon Pagenaud 2
T8 Mike Conway 1
T8 Carlos Huertas 1
T8 Scott Dixon 1
T8 Tony Kanaan 1
T8 Graham Rahal 1
T8 Charlie Kimball 1
T8 Ed Carpenter 1
T8 Jack Hawksworth 1
T8 Mikhail Aleshin 1

Lap Leaders:
1 Will Power 348
2 Helio Castroneves 174
3 Ryan Hunter-Reay 165
4 Ed Carpenter 116
5 Tony Kanaan 79
6 Juan Pablo Montoya 74
7 Takuma Sato 67
8 James Hinchcliffe 56
9 Simon Pagenaud 53
10 Jack Hawksworth 32
11 Scott Dixon 27
12 Marco Andretti 22
13 Justin Wilson 20
14 Sebastian Saavedra 14
15 Graham Rahal 10
16 Mike Conway 8
17 Josef Newgarden 8
T18 Oriol Servia 7
T18 Carlos Huertas 7
19 Ryan Briscoe 5
20 Mikhail Aleshin 4
21 Alex Tagliani 3
22 Sebastien Bourdais 2

Entrant Points
Pos. # Entrant Points
1 12 Team Penske 446
2 3 Team Penske 446
3 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports 402
4 2 Team Penske 391
5 28 Andretti Autosport 388
6 34 Andretti Autosport/HVM 340
7 25 Andretti Autosport 325
8 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing 297
9 20 Ed Carpenter Racing 290
10 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing 285
11 11 KVSH Racing 271
12 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing 267
13 27 Andretti Autosport 266
14 7 SMP Racing 263
15 19 Dale Coyne Racing 253
16 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing 239
17 98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian 227
18 18 Dale Coyne Racing 224
19 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing 220
20 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 202
21 17 KV/AFS Racing 196
22 14 A.J. Foyt Racing 189
23 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 112
24 26 Andretti Autosport 88
25 21 Ed Carpenter Racing 66
26 22 Dreyer and Reinbold 57
27 33 KV Racing Technology 34
28 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 29
29 68 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing 28
30 6 KV Racing Technology 22
31 63 Dale Coyne Racing 21
32 41 A.J. Foyt Racing 18
33 91 Lazier Partners Racing 11

Finishing Average
1 Helio Castroneves 5.81
2 Kurt Busch 6.00
3 Will Power 6.09
4 Simon Pagenaud 6.72
5 Sage Karam 9.00
6 J.R. Hildebrand 10.00
T7 Scott Dixon 10.18
T7 Carlos Munoz 10.18
9 Juan Pablo Montoya 10.45
10 Ryan Hunter-Reay 10.72
11 Ryan Briscoe 11.75
12 Marco Andretti 12.125
13 Carlos Munoz 12.375
T14 Oriol Servia 12.5
T14 Justin Wilson 12.5
16 Alex Tagliani 13.0
17 Sebastien Bourdais 13.25
18 Charlie Kimball 13.625
19 Mike Conway 13.66
T20 Jacques Villeneuve 14.0
T20 Ed Carpenter 14.0
22 Carlos Huertas 14.25
23 Mikhail Aleshin 14.875
24 James Hinchcliffe 15.125
T25 Takuma Sato 15.5
T25 Jack Hawksworth 15.5
27 Sebastian Saavedra 15.75
28 James Davison 16.00
29 Josef Newgarden 16.375
30 Graham Rahal 16.625
31 Martin Plowman 20.5
32 Franck Montagny 22.0
33 Pippa Mann 24.0
34 Townsend Bell 25.0
35 Buddy Lazier 32.0

Pole Positions
T1 Takuma Sato 2
T1 Will Power 2
T1 Helio Castroneves 2
T4 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1
T4 Sebastian Saavedra 1
T4 Ed Carpenter 1
T4 Simon Pagenaud 1
T4 Juan Pablo Montoya 1

Appearances in the Firestone Fast Six
1 Ryan Hunter-Reay 4
T2 Scott Dixon 3
T2 Will Power 3
T2 James Hinchcliffe 3
T2 Helio Castroneves 3
T2 Jack Hawksworth 3
T7 Simon Pagenaud 2
T7 Josef Newgarden 2
T9 Takuma Sato 1
T9 Marco Andretti 1
T9 Sebastien Bourdais 1
T9 Tony Kanaan 1
T9 Sebastian Saavedra 1
T9 Mike Conway 1
T9 Juan Pablo Montoya 1
T9 Ryan Briscoe 1
Ride-Buying isn't going away anytime soon

by Brian Carroccio
Tuesday, February 05, 2013

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Danica Patrick's good looks and marketing abilities enable her to bring much needed money to any team, but she doesn't get the ride-buyer label because she does possess 'enough talent' to not be a moving chicane on the race track.  The ride-buyer label is usually reserved for drivers who bring money but can't drive even a nail.
“Look, we’re all paying our way somehow,” were the words of an Izod IndyCar Series driver a few years ago during the Mid-Ohio IndyCar weekend. The driver, who was not speaking on the record, and will thus remain unnamed, was talking with a small group of people, of which I was a part.

Frustrated after a less than inspiring session, the driver was doing his or her best to maintain a good face. However, someone in the immediate area, who I presume was a guest of the team/driver's sponsor, asked a rather poorly timed question. This person, who seemingly had not been watching timing and scoring during the previous session asked about the prevalence of pay-drivers or “ride-buyers,” in the IndyCar Series. Of course, we all know how what the driver's, very polite yet firm response was.

Shortly thereafter, the conversation awkwardly transitioned to more mundane topics, which I don’t vividly recall. Still, the comment of the driver and the manner in which it was said, did stick with me. And I was reminded of this conversation last week when reading my colleague Stephen Cox's article.

Now, Cox's article was not specifically about "ride-buying," per se. Rather, Cox's piece objected to the prevailing wisdom, or as he called it "propaganda," that some drivers "deserve," rides at the top level, while others like say Milka Duno and Shigeaki Hattori do not, because well, they bought them. To Cox, the matter is simple: those drivers met whatever minimum qualifying standard was in place at the time. Thus, the notion of others projecting personal opinion as to who is fit or unfit is irrelevant.

However, what is relevant is something Cox alluded to, albeit indirectly. Generally speaking, we don't like "ride-buying." Certainly, on the surface, the practice seems a rather unsavory one. In an ideal world, teams would hire the best available drivers based on merit, and not whoever can bring the biggest check, or who has the wealthier daddy. Further, you often hear analogies to other sports, such as "Derek Jeter isn't the New York Yankees shortstop because he has backing from a sponsor."

While I understand that position, it neglects the salient point made by the driver at Mid-Ohio: everyone is paying their way somehow. "Ride-buying" is a reality of racing; a complicated reality that exists at all levels; a complicated reality that likely will not change until the sport's economics change.

Now, it is as we shall see, a reality that is not necessarily bad. Certainly, the term "ride-buyer" as used in the vernacular has a less than sterling stigma. But as the driver at Mid-Ohio pointed out: all drivers, even the most talented ones, buy their ride somehow. As Cox pointed out, it is seemingly only a choice few, we reserve the dreaded "ride-buyer" label for.

To begin, it should be noted that racing differs drastically from other sports in that it is incredibly dependent on corporate sponsorship. The resources necessary, human, technical and otherwise, to make exotic machines travel in excess of 200 miles per hour are vast, and the driver simply one part of the equation. While talent is certainly desirable, it is by no means the only consideration when selecting a driver.

Also, team owners are under no obligation to spend their money in a way that benefits the sport as a whole. After all, team owners have employees to pay, shops to keep open, and a bottom line to consider. While the sport of IndyCar racing would be better served if a team owner hired a young, charismatic American hotshot as opposed to say Duno or Hattori that is not a decision we can make. For whatever reason, in the opinion of their team owners, Duno and Hattori maximized the return on investment relative to whatever other options were at the time available.

Of course, a driver who maximizes return on investment, and a winning driver, can be two entirely different things. For example, 2004 NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, is an incredibly gifted driver. However, his commercial appeal to a team is compromised, as Busch is not considered exactly sponsor/media/fan friendly. Sure, Busch may get a team to Victory Lane. But there is probably just as strong a possibility Busch may drop an f-bomb or 47 during a post-race interview. In short, Busch's personal shortcomings mitigate the appeal of his supreme talent, as no sponsor wants someone dropping f-bombs while wearing their insignia.

And the past two seasons, top-level teams have stayed away from Busch. Apparently, hiring Kurt Busch does not make economic sense to top-level team owners. However, hiring someone of lesser talent does.

For example, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a fine driver, a race-winning driver, but from a talent standpoint, not on the same level as Busch. Yet, Junior is with the sport's best team, Hendrick Motorsports, while Busch currently drives for a smaller one-car operation, Furniture Row Racing. Why?

Well, Earnhardt is incredibly more savvy with sponsors and media than Busch. Whether valid or entirely contrived, fans love his "regular guy you want to go fishing and have a beer with," persona. Heck, even when Earnhardt makes mistakes, such as swearing on camera, he is by and large forgiven. Busch is not.

While Busch is the better driver, Earnhardt is more charismatic, likable and overall more appealing to a team owner. Clearly, Earnhardt's appeal to sponsors, popularity and overall ability to maximize the bottom line was a factor in obtaining his ride. The same can be said of Danica Patrick.

Of course, Earnhardt or Patrick are never called a ride buyer. However, they have essentially parlayed their marketing savvy and likable persona into a premier ride. Sure, Earnhardt did not physically bring a check with him to Hendrick Motorsports, nor did Patrick physically bring a check to Stewart-Haas Racing. However, their marketing potential allows Hendrick and Stewart to secure significant backing. And as the driver at Mid-Ohio would tell you, Earnhardt and Patrick have paid their way "somehow."

Ironically, so has Busch. See, if Busch was a lousy or even average driver in addition to being incredibly unpleasant, he would have no place in the sport. However, Busch's supreme talent "buys" him numerous chances, albeit with lesser teams. Yes, "somehow," Busch has paid for his ride.

Another point people never consider is there are actually many drivers who directly obtain funding, who no one attributes the dreaded "ride-buyer" label to. I'll give you an IndyCar example: Graham Rahal.

Yes, if you go back to 2010, a then 21-year old Rahal endured a miserable season. Having lost his full-time gig with Newman/Haas after 2009, Rahal spent 2010 bouncing between four different teams, competing in only 12 of 17 IndyCar events, scoring a best finish of 5th at Toronto.

To his credit, Rahal did not bemoan his situation, or tell the world he was getting a raw deal. He didn't point to a lesser regarded driver on the grid at the time, such as Duno, and proclaim some travesty of justice. Nor did he attempt to rely on his royal status within the sport, as the son of three-time CART champion and current IndyCar team owner Bobby Rahal.

Rather, young Rahal took the steps necessary to insure such a situation would not happen again. He knocked on doors, made phone calls, and ultimately fostered a relationship with TBC Retail Group, the parent company of Service Central, Big O Tires, and Midas amongst others. With TBC backing Rahal secured a full-time drive in 2011 with Chip Ganassi. Of course, Rahal will move to father Bobby's team in 2013, with TBC Retail following.

So, does this make Graham Rahal a ride-buyer? Certainly, Rahal does not fit the ride-buyer prototype, as his capability behind the wheel is well-regarded. Yet it is also certain Rahal's backing is a factor in him having a ride. Arguably, without the support of TBC Retail, Rahal would not have a full-time ride and be subject to bouncing around like he did in 2010.

Now, I say this not to undermine Rahal. If anything, I believe he should be commended for beating the bushes to essentially insure he would have a place in the sport. And I've heard many a driver over the years bemoan their inability to secure a seat due to lack of funding. However, Rahal is really no more or less of a ride-buyer than say Duno or Hattori. We simply don't attach the dreaded label or stigma to Rahal because we believe his talent warrants his place on the grid.

Graham Rahal
However, it cannot be denied that if Rahal did not secure funding on his own, there is a significant possibility he would not have a full-time drive. And that is why followers of the sport who decry the practice often misplace their anger. As stated earlier, they are willing to trash Duno or Hattori, and give them demeaning nicknames. But the reality is, who can really blame the drivers? They are simply parlaying their resources into competing in a world class competition, something most of us could only dream of.

Of course, because resources are so important in racing, more talented drivers often are passed over for lesser talented ones. While as outlined earlier, "ride-buying," is a clear reality in racing, all of us would likely agree that we would want to reach a point where teams hire the best drivers available. Certainly, the preference would be to keep the number of Dunos and Hattoris to a minimum. For this to occur, one and/or two things must happen.

IndyCar driver James Jakes gets the ride-buyer label perhaps unfairly.  His performance on the track has been very good at times in arguably not the best equipment on the grid.
First, teams must do a better job securing their own sponsorship. This is of course, a chicken/egg type deal. To secure backing, it helps for a team to have a track record of success. To have success, a team usually has to hire a good driver. If a team is dependent on "ride-buyers," it's chances of success diminish greatly, and they will by and large be consigned to being "field fillers." Further, they exacerbate the notion that they are well, "field fillers."

However, any look at the history of the sport shows teams that can pick and choose their drivers are going to be the most successful. For example, and this is just one, Chip Ganassi's team has enjoyed the backing of corporate behemoth Target for over twenty years. While drivers have come and gone, the red Target cars have remained fixtures in Victory Lane.

And while Ganassi's team is a behemoth, there are examples of smaller teams securing their own funding and maximizing their changes for success. Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian could have sought a funded driver, for their 2011 Indianapolis 500 entry. However, the team chose to secure sponsorship on their own, which allowed them to hire the best available driver for that race, Dan Wheldon. The late Wheldon, of course dramatically won the race after lap-199 leader J.R. Hildebrand crashed just before the checkered flag.

The second way to deter "ride-buying" would need to come from the sanctioning organizations. IndyCar, for one, has done a better job in recent years getting the standouts from their ladder series into the top level by creating incentives for teams hiring Indy Lights champions. Granted, its a very small step, but an important one that has shown a commitment to the ladder system, and provided a merit-based award.

In the meantime, however, teams have employees to pay, parts to purchase, damaged cars to repair, testing they want to do, and not as much free cash flow as they once did. I imagine when push comes to shove, drivers with backing are going to have better chances of finding their way to the grid of whatever series they choose to compete. They would be best served heeding the wisdom of young Rahal, Earnhardt, Jr., and an unnamed driver at Mid-Ohio from a few years back. 

Yes, whether we like it or not, they all pay their way "somehow."

Brian Carroccio is an IndyCar columnist for AutoRacing1.com. He grew up around racing as the son of a longtime SCCA crewman. His first vivid memory of Indy car racing is Danny Sullivan’s 1985 “Spin and Win,” at Indianapolis. Brian lives in Rockville, MD.

As a lifelong fan of the Washington Redskins his favorite colors are burgundy and gold. He is also a passionate supporter of Manchester United.

For witty insight on our beloved sport of Indy car racing, and thoughts on other topics of interest to Brian, you can follow him on Twitter @BrianC_AR1.

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