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DATE News (chronologically)
06/27/13
irl
Unpredictable first half sets stage for IndyCar championship battle
Entering the second season of the chassis-engine platform, IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and team personnel knew that the competition at each of the 16 venues would be exceptionally keen.

The field's depth of talent and experience, combined with knowledge gained about the car's characteristics on the diverse racetracks, immediately set in motion scintillating racing and unexpected results.

• There have been seven different winners representing six teams in the 10 races.
• There have been three first-time winners.
• Seven different teams are represented in the top 10 of the standings.
• Nine points separate 1-2 in the driver standings.
• Twenty-one drivers have at least one top-five finish.
• There have been seven different winners of the Verizon P1 Award for earning the pole.
• No driver has led laps in all 10 races. Reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay is tops with seven races led for a total of 216 laps.
• There were a record 68 lead changes in the Indianapolis 500 among 14 drivers.

"It's circumstances. All the teams are improving. It shows that the series is very, very competitive," said Helio Castroneves, the championship front-runner who is seeking his first IZOD IndyCar Series title. "It gives an opportunity for a guy -- rookie -- to win races. That is why our series is one of the best."

With nine races left, including a pair of doubleheader race weekends in which each race pays full points, championship contender additions - or deletions - won't come into clear view until early October.

"These races are so hard to win," said James Hinchcliffe, who's won a series-high three races. "You've got to be with a good crew, good car, good pit stops, call it right, drive smart and have some luck. And you can't take anything for granted. You can't assume you're in a good position, because there are legitimately 12 guys any weekend that can win a race, and you just never know if you'll ever win another one."

A look at some items that stand out as the series moves into the second half:

WHO'S HOT
Hunter-Reay has totaled 176 points in the past four oval races (all podiums, including a victory in the Milwaukee IndyFest) and added 53 points from the Detroit doubleheader. In that span, he's moved from sixth in the standings exiting Sao Paulo to second.

Andretti Autosport has won five of the 10 races (three by Hinchcliffe and two by Hunter-Reay), including the past two on short ovals. Three of its four drivers are 2-3-4 in the championship.

"I think the team has a lot of confidence in each other and themselves and now we can just try and rip off some consistent results because you look at Marco (Andretti) and you look at Helio, I've got more wins than anybody but those guys are ahead of me because they have been more consistent," Hinchcliffe said.

MR. CONSISTENCY
Castroneves has recorded 216 points in the past six races - all top-10 finishes. Over the 10 races, he has one victory and one finish out of the top 10. Bonuses totaling 25 points have aided his drive for a first series title.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion is the only driver to complete all 1,423 laps. He's been running at the finish in the past 22 races.

CLOSE AS ALWAYS
4.34 seconds - Average margin of victory in the six street/road course races. There's been a low of .3463 of a second at Sao Paulo and a high of 12.9707 seconds in Detroit 1.

3.66 seconds - Average margin of victory in three of the four ovals (Indianapolis 500 finished under caution). There's been a low of 1.5009 seconds at Iowa and a high of 4.8059 seconds at Milwaukee.

NUMBERS TO NOTE
20.6 - Average number of cars running at the finish with 25 the average number of starters in nine events (outside of the Indianapolis 500, which had 26 of 33 cars running at the finish).

12.6 - Average number of lead changes. There's been a record-high of 68 at Indianapolis.

6.1 - Average number of lap leaders. There's been a high of 14 at Indianapolis.

2 - Fewest DNFs at Sao Paulo and Texas Motor Speedway.

1 Laps led by a race winner (Hinchcliffe at Sao Paulo). Conversely, Takuma Sato led a field-high 109 of 250 laps at Milwaukee and wasn't the winner.

1 - Fewest cautions at Barber Motorsports Park for four laps.

187.433 mph -- Average speed (race record) in Indianapolis 500.

WHAT'S AHEAD
Another superspeedway - Pocono Raceway on July 7 - kicks off the second-half push, immediately followed by another doubleheader weekend on the streets of Exhibition Place in Toronto. Natural-terrain road course events at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma follow before the third event on the streets of Baltimore on Labor Day weekend.

The third doubleheader of the season - on the streets of Houston, the first Indy car race there since 2007 - will either define or muddle the championship chase heading into the finale on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval. The champion has been decided in the season-ending race each of the past seven years.
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