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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
Houston IndyCar GP postscript

by Brian Carroccio
Tuesday, July 01, 2014

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Castroneves hits wall after cutting across into Bourdais
IndyCar
After a rather regrettable 2013 Grand Prix of Houston, the Verizon IndyCar Series went a long way towards redeeming itself in the 2014 edition of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers. 

With a higher-than-normal volume of material to cover, let’s get right into the recently concluded bat***t crazy weekend for IndyCar in Houston.

Carlos Huertas

Nothing against Sunday winner Simon Pagenaud, who led a 1-2 finish for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (we’ll hit on Pagenaud and SPM later). However, the enduring memory of Houston 2014 will forever be Saturday’s did-that-actually-happen victory by Dale Coyne Racing’s Carlos Huertas.

Huertas drove a perfect race 1 to win
IndyCar
Let’s begin our discussion by acknowledging the following: there is not a single empirical metric one could have reasonably cited going into Saturday, or even in retrospect that would have forecast a Huertas win in Houston. He had and still has never qualified better than 12th for an IndyCar race. He had no finish better than eighth prior to Saturday. He had never even led an IndyCar lap prior to Saturday. Yes, this was the textbook definition of an “out of nowhere” victory.

That said, the fact Huertas had something of a breakout performance did not come as a shock to everyone.

Let’s go back about a month

On the Saturday before the Indianapolis 500, AR1 President Mark Cipolloni and I spent about a half hour with Dale Coyne in Gasoline Alley. The conversation was relatively casual. We spoke about the IndyCar schedule, Coyne shared some insights on the costs of running a race team, there was a brief discussion about pit strategy for the 500, etc.

However, an enduring memory of that conversation was Coyne spent a fair amount of time praising his young Colombian driver. Whether it was how quickly Huertas had adjusted to Indy despite having never been on the track prior to the month of May; whether it was fuel mileage or managing tires, Coyne noted how quickly Huertas absorbed new information. He mentioned the fact he had yet to crash the car (something that still hasn’t occurred). He reminded us that Huertas should have finished fifth at Long Beach, but was given an unwarranted penalty.

He also mentioned that Huertas would likely run more of the oval races the summer, even though he had not publicly confirmed that (and to my knowledge still has not).

Now, keep in mind, Mark and I did not venture over to Gasoline Alley with the intention of getting the lowdown on Carlos Huertas. Coyne, absent any significant prompting on our part, gave it to us anyway in glowing terms.

The longtime IndyCar owner would reiterate similar thoughts to me the next weekend in Detroit (again unprompted) after Huertas qualified 12th and finished 8th on Saturday. Noting how the Colombian had managed to make the Firestone ‘Reds’ last longer when many of the front-runners were experiencing significant wear, Coyne said Huertas could have finished higher if not for some better strategy on the part of the team.

Of course, it’s one thing for an owner to praise his driver (as if he’s going to slam him to the media?). But in speaking to Coyne on multiple occasions, I got the sense he believed a breakout performance (not necessarily a win, but a top-5) for Huertas was if anything, a little overdue.

That said…

No one, Coyne included, saw a win coming Saturday.

However, after a decision to bring Huertas in just as the final pit window opened, a timely caution vaulted the he and teammate Justin Wilson to the front of the field; Wilson leading. When Wilson pit with a few minutes remaining, Huertas found himself leading with minutes remaining.

Of course, there are those who will point out that Huertas was the beneficiary of timely cautions and some shrewd pit strategy by DCR. He was. Others will note that the variable weather conditions played a role in allowing those who usually run mid-pack greater opportunity to move to the front. They did. Also, Graham Rahal punting Tony Kanaan on what would have been the final restart means we’ll never know if Huertas could have outfoxed three restart-extraordinaires in Rahal, Kanaan and Juan Pablo Montoya to hang on for the win.

Just keep in mind that the Colombian rookie didn’t put a wheel wrong for 20-plus laps with Montoya and Kanaan, who both had fresher tires and no fuel conservation concerns, in hot pursuit. As Coyne noted in the aftermath the strategy got him to the front, but Huertas knew what to do once he was there.

In other words did Huertas get a break or two on the way to victory? Certainly.

But did the 23-year old Colombian rookie show the world he had the chops to keep it together with two Indy 500 winners and Indy car champions breathing down his neck when it mattered most?

No doubt about it.

And while Huertas winning the race, was clearly a shock, the fact he was in contention, and handled the moment like a seasoned pro, was not the least bit of a surprise to one notoriously coy IndyCar team owner. 

Simon

Pagenaud
IndyCar
As for Pagenaud, we knew he had the chops prior to Sunday’s win. Ironically, this was the second time the Frenchman won the Sunday installment of a doubleheader, only to be upstaged by a Saturday DCR win. You might remember Pagenaud scored his first win at Detroit last season, the day after Mike Conway won for DCR.

In this particular case, the win was potentially some redemption for Pagenaud, who had won pole for Saturday’s race, and clearly had a strong car but experienced brake problems and finished 16th. Sunday, Pagenaud gapped the field multiple times in scoring a more-than-convincing victory.

Mikhail Aleshin

Aleshin qualified 2nd Sunday, and slipped back in the early going but like Huertas the day before used some shrewd strategy to get back to the front, and help complete the first 1-2 for SPM.

With Carlos Munoz finishing third Saturday, and Jack Hawksworth doing the same Sunday, that made for four rookies on the podium this weekend.

Also, look for an article sometime in the near future on AutoRacing1 about the impressive rookie class of 2014.

Back to SPM…

Any reasonable person would classify Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, and Team Penske as the elite teams in IndyCar. However, with 4 wins in the last 20 races and a 1-2 yesterday, SPM in my opinion leads Ed Carpenter Racing and probably DCR as the class of Tier 2 if you will.

That said, to maintain said status and continue putting the pressure on the top-teams it is an imperative that SPM find a way to bring back the driver who the team is built around: Pagenaud. Pagenaud is of course, rumored to be speaking with Andretti Autosport.

About Andretti…

Marco Andretti
IndyCar
I’ll ask in advance that you forgive the length of this section. However, there’s no way to really brush over the level of detail involved here.

As you probably know, Marco Andretti was fined $2500 and placed on probation for three races for failing to heed the blue flag in Race 1. Andretti Autosport was also fined $2500, although the reasons were not clear, as “actions” were cited in an IndyCar press release.

Andretti was of course racing then-leader Takuma Sato in an attempt to stay on the lead lap early in the race. At the time Andretti’s teammate James Hinchcliffe was running second and closing on Sato. IndyCar showed Andretti the blue ‘move-over’ flag, which he ignored, and was subsequently black-flagged.

Yes, there is a case (an easy one) that can (and will) be made for INDYCAR mishandling the situation. What cannot be overlooked is the fact Andretti ignored the blue flag. Simply put, with cars at speed on track, the orders of Race Control are not a matter of interpretation. Whether Race Control is right or wrong, the black flag means the driver must pit. The blue flag means the driver must yield.

Period.

In this particular case, it’s everything else that is less clear.

Let’s start with a report on More Front Wing Sunday of a radio exchange (no audio, no quotes) between Hinchcliffe and the team. Apparently, the Canadian was told by the team that Sato was about to catch Andretti. The obvious implication there is that Andretti would impede Sato to assist Hinchcliffe.

Now, if that was a direct action by Andretti Autosport to have Andretti impede Sato for Hinchcliffe’s benefit, I agree that it was a) unsporting, b) against IndyCar rules, and c) action should be taken in accordance with Rule 9.3.4 states in The IndyCar Rule Book which states: 

“If IndyCar determines one or more Members of a Team attempted to or engaged in team tactics or orders, INDYCAR may issue a black flag penalty to any or all of the Team’s Car/Driver combinations in addition to other penalties.”

My interpretation of the wording above gives INDYCAR discretion to administer the black flag to the entire Andretti Autosport fleet (including Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz.) Granted, that would be excessive. Still, if INDYCAR had proof of an attempt to engage in team orders via the radio, both Hinchcliffe and Andretti could and should have been black-flagged. However, that’s not what happened.

For the record, team owner Michael Andretti took vehement exception to the notion of any wrongdoing by his team.

It gets more convoluted

In the MFW report, INDYCAR president of competition and operations Walker claims that “we made a new rule,” with regard to Andretti being blue-flagged for impeding Sato. In other words, because Andretti was impeding Sato with his teammate in pursuit, the blue flag was administered, which wasn’t actually a rule because…

The blue flag

IndyCar’s rule 7.2.5.2 states the blue flag can be shown to “lapped cars” with nothing about cars being lapped (which would have applied to Andretti at the time).

So, if Andretti (team and driver) happened to collude for Hinchcliffe’s benefit, it’s conceivable that IndyCar showed Marco Andretti the wrong flag initially?

According to my understanding of the two rules in question, yes.

So let’s get this straight: Marco was shown the blue flag even though there is nothing in the rule book that would warrant administering the blue flag? And even if there was intent to impede Sato on Andretti’s part, which is questionable, the rule that is in the book was not administered. Instead, a rule that was reportedly created sometime between laps 10 and 15 Saturday was administered?

Repeating that Andretti was justifiably black-flagged for ignoring the blue flag, that’s how I interpret the matter with the information at our disposal. Although, it should be noted that Walker denied making the “we made a new rule,” comment in a story with ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz on Monday.

And we still have no idea what was said on the radio anyway

Yes. Without the audio (and possibly even with) no impropriety can be proven, leaving a myriad of reasonable questions.

First, doesn’t Andretti (the driver) have a right to race in order to stay on the lead lap, regardless of who is in pursuit of the leader? The fact it was Hinchcliffe chasing Sato is inconsequential. For example, Andretti would want to stay on the lead lap if Hinchcliffe were leading and Sato was second. 

Further, while Andretti was not as fast as Sato or Hinchcliffe, he was running competitive lap times on fresher tires. He was not blocking nor was there any action in my opinion which could have been interpreted as directly impeding Sato. Keep in mind, this occurred at a time in the race when there was really only a single-groove dry line, making overtaking difficult throughout the field.

In short, it appears INDYCAR admitted to administering a penalty that didn’t exist before lap 10 Saturday. Further, the administration of said penalty that didn’t exist was based on circumspect, questionable and non-cited evidence.

Whatever the case, this has the all the makings of your proverbial monkey-football situation written all over it.

Championship

Very quietly, Ryan Hunter-Reay finished 9th and 6th this weekend, while both Helio Castroneves and Will Power had rough weekends. RHR gained 19 points on both the Penske drivers. Don’t look now but we have an idiotic double-points race coming up this weekend, and some RHR favorable tracks ahead like Iowa, Milwaukee and Mid-Ohio.

Might we look back on this weekend as the one where RHR’s title-run sprang to life?

JPM

Juan Pablo Montoya appears to be finding his groove.
Montoya had an excellent weekend finishing second Saturday and nearly scoring another top-five Sunday, before fading to finish 7th. After spending seven seasons in NASCAR, the former F1 driver, and CART Champion is driving with a ton of confidence right now. Look for JPM to be a factor this upcoming weekend in Pocono.

Some not-so-pretty numbers

16, 14, 19, 21, 11, 17 and 13. Aside from his win at Long Beach, those are Mike Conway’s 2014 race finishes.

14, 16, 8, 18 and 18. Those are Will Power’s last 5 qualifying efforts for street course races dating back to this year’s Long Beach race.

3. That’s how many top-10 finishes Takuma Sato has in his last 25 races, with no finish better than seventh. Yes, Sato is fast on his day, but he’s never seemed to shake his propensity for mistakes at inopportune moments. Also…

37. No, I’m not calling Sato an old man. But at 37, he’s certainly not the future of Foyt’s race team, and if he isn’t the present either, one has to wonder how long a certain grumpy not-exactly-known-for-his-patience Texan is going to tolerate the current state of affairs.

The TV Booth

I can’t offer any particular reason as to why this trio seems to have such good chemistry. However, the combination of Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy and Steve Matchett is the best television-booth announce team Indy car racing has had in quite a while.

Also, while I’ve long believed that NBC Sports Network’s sales pitch has essentially been “we’re not ABC,” the coverage top-to-bottom this weekend was outstanding.

Brian Carroccio is a columnist for AutoRacing1. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.

Feedback can be sent to feedback@autoracing1.com

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