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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
Long Beach Postscript

by Brian Carroccio
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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Takuma Sato dominated Sunday in Long Beach in an AJ Foyt car.
We just couldn't contain ourselves.

Whether it was jokes about A.J. Foyt eating sushi, wisecrack questions over Speedway's Dallara factory being adequately staffed, or simple amusement at the potentially unlimited supply of comedic ammunition, we laughed hard and laughed often. Heck, we never even got around to asking whether Takuma Sato cut his teeth racing sprint cars and midgets like Kenny Brack, Airton Dare, Vitor Meira, and Eliseo Salazar.

And if we weren't busy bursting with laughter over what seemed to be an especially bizarre of bizarre pairings, we sure as heck weren't predicting dominant form. No, many like myself forecast nothing but doom and gloom for Takuma Sato and Foyt Racing. In fact, about one month ago, I wrote the following in Part 1 of AutoRacing1.com's 2013 Izod IndyCar Series preview….

"I know….Sato posted the fastest time in a recent test at Sebring. He also displayed flashes of brilliance with RLL last season. However, I bet you didn't know this: no Foyt car has won a race in a unified Indy Car series since 1978.

Also, keep in mind you have the combination of an aggressive driver paired with a team not exactly known for engineering excellence. Further, I don't see A.J. Foyt mentoring Sato as Bobby Rahal did a year ago. I'm guessing, Sato, as he is known to do, will overdrive the car to compensate for said engineering shortcomings.

Yes, this is a disastrous pairing folks. I'm predicting lots of tax write-offs, more overtime shifts at the Speedway Dallara factory, and one extremely grumpy Texan."

In fact, so convinced was I the Sato and Foyt partnership was certain to end in tears, I placed 150/1 odds on Taku to win the 2013 title in that same article. For the record, no one took me up on the deal, and that deal is now, off the table.

Yes, with his maiden win Sunday the likable, aggressive Japanese driver has moved into second place in the series standings and forced at least this writer to eat a little crow. And while Sato and the long-suffering Foyt team, were clearly the story Sunday, there was news aplenty throughout the field.

Using a subject/elaboration style format, let's take a look at a few of the headlines to emerge from yesterday's 39th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, starting with the man of the hour, Takuma Sato.

Takuma Sato
Sato:

Sato, of course, has been poised for a breakout for what seems like, forever. Even dating back to his Formula One days, no one questioned whether Taku could pedal the car. The greater question was he could bring it home in one piece.

And early in his IndyCar he often didn't. In fact, Sato would crash 8 times in his first IndyCar season in 2010.

Last season, however, was a breakout of sorts as Sato joined Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He, of course, nearly won the Indianapolis 500, scored two podium finishes, and ran at the front numerous times particularly early in the year.

Still, given his switch this season to the previously hapless Foyt team, expectations were low. In fairness, that was partially due to the woeful performance of the Foyt operation in recent years.

But all indications are the Foyt boys have upped their game. Simultaneously, Sato seems to have learned to combine that pure speed with greater patience. Further, it was long believed that if Sato could simply score that break through victory, he would be able to score more.

Well, he has that break though victory now. While I'm not ready to label the Sato-Foyt pairing a title contender yet, keep in mind this weekend's win was not some fuel mileage, get lucky strategy deal. No, Taku was the fastest guy on track.

And don't look now, but the next two events are at places Sato ran quite well last season, Sao Paulo and Indy. Yes, don't be surprised if a "monkey-finally-off-his-back" Sato goes on a little run here at venues he has enjoyed success.

Parity Reigns:

Sato's somewhat surprising win is also indicative of how competitive the field has been so far in 2013. While I will say it has become a little tiresome hearing the "things are so close in IndyCar this year," talk, this oft-repeated narrative cannot be disputed.

Already, we've seen 8 different drivers on the podium in three races. Further, the running order has not simply been scrambled race-to-race but session-to-session. Simon Pagenaud, for example, posted the fastest time in Practice 3 this weekend, only to qualify seventeenth in the following session. James Hinchcliffe led the opening practice, but was 10th and 19th in the subsequent sessions.

The championship standings also bear this out, with the top-5 drivers separated by 18 points. For some perspective, last season at this time, Will Power led the championship by 24 points over Castroneves. Power at this point in 2012 had won two races and finished seventh in the other. This year, Castroneves leads the championship with ironically fewer points than he had at this time last season.

Now, there is a way to go, and it is conceivable someone gets on a run a la Ryan Hunter-Reay last season.

Still, judging by the first three events this field is extraordinarily deep, which will place a greater premium on consistency. And we could see a champion, who does not dominate a la Gil de Ferran, who won the CART title in both 2000 and 2001 each season with two wins.

Although, Not Everyone is Enjoying This Parity Thing:

Two teams have yet to record a top-10 finish: Ed Carpenter Racing and Dragon Racing.

As for Carpenter, we know the deal with him. Although the series' only owner-driver has improved his road racing craft, he is not a road racer by trade. However, he is certain to be a factor once the series visits the oval tracks starting with Indy in May. 

Dragon is an altogether different matter.

Whether full or part-time, the Jay Penske-owned team has been around in one form or another since 2007. Last season, the team endured a difficult beginning saddled with the dreadful Lotus before switching to Chevrolet at Indy. Sadly, the team had to drop from two entries to one for much of 2012.

However, with a full-season Chevrolet effort led by former four-time Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais, who had some impressive runs late last season, Dragon was expected to take a step forward in 2013. 

That hasn't happened so far. Sure, no one expected 22 year-old Colombian Sebastian Saavedra to contend, but Bourdais' lack of form is concerning. Despite the fact he has completed all three races, the talented Frenchman is currently a distant 18th in points with a best finish of 11th at St. Pete.

Generally speaking, Bourdais has been a total non-factor, seemingly invisible. To what extent the issue is the team and/or driver is hard to say. However, Dragon has yet to record a podium finish in IndyCar and they no longer have the excuse of a lousy engine. And considering the Foyt team's recent upturn in form, and the fact Carpenter will certainly contend for race wins on the ovals, I have to ask: Is there team on the grid currently worse than Dragon Racing?

Engine Competition:

While Dragon hasn't been much to talk about, their engine supplier, Chevrolet, enjoyed the upper-hand at the season's first two events. The Bowtie Brigade swept the first four spots at the season opener in St. Petersburg, and took three of the top-five spots in the second race at Barber. Long Beach, however, was all about Honda.

Overall, indications are the Chevy-Honda battle will continue to seesaw. However, we do know this: legitimate competition from major engine manufacturers is back in IndyCar. Sure, it's not the heydays of the 1990s in CART. Sure, Chevy and Honda aren’t natural rivals like say Chevy and Ford, or Honda and Toyota.

Still, after years of Honda supplying the entire field, a nice little rivalry between Chevy and Honda is starting to blossom. And if those Audi rumors are true, IndyCar could have a third manufacturing giant by 2015.

Speaking of Audi…..

News broke last week that the legendary German marque was considering a move to IndyCar. Audi, of course, has enjoyed vast success in sports car racing, particularly in the prototype classes.

Now, it's hard to say how serious Audi is about getting into IndyCar, and on the surface, I can't really see their motivation. While the Indy 500 would certainly entice Audi, IndyCar's current rules are somewhat restrictive regarding technical development. 

Still, manufacturers are the lifeblood of any racing series. Audi joining the fray would give IndyCar three bonafide major manufacturers. While there would be concerns over Audi raising the costs of competing, their presence would greatly raise IndyCar's profile both internationally and domestically. And few manufacturers would give IndyCar more cache than the legendary Four Rings.

One Quick Thing:

In this era of gimmicky tires, DRS, and other measures intended to "liven up the show," Sebastian Vettel was thoroughly dominant at Bahrain this weekend. Don't look now, but at 25 years of age (he turns 26 in July), Vettel has already produced an astounding 28 F1 wins. By comparison, Michael Schumacher had 10 wins before turning 26.

And no, it is not too early to start speculating as to whether Vettel can make a run at Schumacher's record of 91 career wins.

Brian Carroccio

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