INDYCAR News And Notes - June 10, 2013

Story posted - Jun 10 2013 8:41 PM

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Texas winner Castroneves turns attention to championship
2. Inside the Box Score: Firestone 550
3. Gift to Servia generates a wave of perspective

1. Texas winner Castroneves turns attention to championship: Helio Castroneves enthusiastically celebrated after winning the Firestone 550 on June 8 but quickly turned his attention to the rest of 2013, which begins this weekend with the Milwaukee IndyFest at the Milwaukee Mile.

"We can't stop right now, because the championship is still wide open," said Castroneves, who opened a 22-point lead over Marco Andretti in the standings.

Indeed, there's no security in being the front-runner through eight races - seven which have produced different winners. Eleven races remain on the diverse schedule, including two street circuit doubleheader weekends that carry full points for each race and sets of two short oval and two superspeedway events.

"A win, certainly, is a great feeling," Castroneves added. "A championship, I don't know that yet, and I would love to have that feeling at the end of the season."

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner has been agonizingly close to the title multiple times in 11 IZOD IndyCar Series seasons, including a runner-up to Sam Hornish Jr. in 2002 and to Scott Dixon in '08.

Consistently running up front when the checkered flag flies is a strategy as old as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to produce a championship season. Castroneves has four top-five and seven top-10 finishes overall - all by qualifying no higher than fifth in the opener at St. Petersburg.

"We've got to be consistent when you have opportunities. At this point, just got to keep moving," said Castroneves, who broke a tie with Johnny Rutherford for 12th on the all-time Indy car list with his 28th victory and first on an oval since September 2010 at Twin Ring Motegi. "(This week), got to turn the page and focus on the next race."

That's the Milwaukee IndyFest on June 15. In 12 previous races at the one-mile oval, Castroneves has three pole starts and a best finish of second among four top 10s. Current championship rivals Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is 27 points off the pace, won at The Milwaukee Mile last year to jump-start his drive to the championship. Tony Kanaan, who's fourth in the standings, was last June's runner-up and like Hunter-Reay is a two-time Milwaukee winner. Andretti has one pole and two top-10 finishes in six starts.

The stretch of five races on consecutive weekends concludes June 23 at Iowa Speedway, where all of the top five in points have had success. The first Indy car event at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway since 1989 follows July 7 before the bulk of the street/road course schedule kicks in.

"Tony and I were on the podium for the next two races last year, and then we have some new challenges," said Hunter-Reay, who claimed his maiden series title in a season-finale shootout with Will Power at Auto Club Speedway. "I like Pocono being on the schedule, it's a new challenge and it will make everybody think, take everybody out of their comfort zone a little bit.

"But we have doubles at Houston and Toronto, and there's a lot of curveballs coming at us, so it should be an interesting championship. I think it will come down to the end, the last race like it always does."

2. Inside the Box Score: Firestone 550: Some numbers to note from the Firestone 550, the eighth race of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

1 -Win for Team Penske through the first eight races of 2013. The team won four of its six races in 2012 at this point last season.

2 - Points separating fourth-place Tony Kanaan (195) and seventh-place Scott Dixon (193) in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.

2.15 - Average running position of Helio Castroneves during the 228 laps of racing in Texas.

5 - Consecutive top-five starts for E.J. Viso.

10 - Positions improved by Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud during the Firestone 550, the most positions gained in the race.

14- Seasons of Indy car competition that Helio Castroneves has won at least one race.

22 - Points separating Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standing after Castroneves' win in Texas.

31 - Indy car pole positions for Will Power, tying Dario Franchitti and Sebastien Bourdais for seventh all time.

40 - Laps that Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden improved their position over the 228 laps of competition, most of any driver.

132 - Laps led by Helio Castroneves, most by any driver in 2013.

146 - Consecutive Indy car starts for Scott Dixon dating to the 2004 race in Michigan. Dixon passed Bobby Rahal and Michael Andretti for seventh at Texas.

204 - Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland. Kanaan is second to Jimmy Vasser's 211 straight starts.

3. Gift to Servia generates a wave of perspective: Oriol Servia didn't achieve the result in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway that he sought in his first race in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car.

Following the 228-lap race, Servia was debriefing with race engineer David Cripps when a wave of perspective tapped him on the shoulder.

SPC Rodsun Rodrigo, Panther's "Hometown Hero" for the Firestone 550, approached the Spanish driver to say thanks for the weekend. They had met earlier in the day when Rodrigo sat next to Servia during the IZOD IndyCar Series driver autograph session.

Rodrigo, who enlisted in the Texas National Guard in 2000, presented Servia with his uniform top.

"I want to give this to you," he said. "To say thank you for the weekend."

The disappointment that had defined Servia's face since the end of the race was instantly replaced by astonishment.

"Are you kidding me?" Servia said. "Are you really giving this to me?"

Rodrigo said that nothing would make him happier than Servia accepting his gift.

"I wore that when I was deployed in Iraq," Rodrigo said. "It's been through a lot. Right before we came home we got ambushed and there was a sniper trying to hit our guys."

Rodrigo specialized in wheeled vehicle mechanics, and later completed his airborne qualifications at Fort Benning (Ga.). After being reclassified to infantry tactics, he deployed to Iraq in 2008 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now assigned to the 698th Military Police (Criminal Investigations Division), Rodrigo frequently volunteers for both Army and civilian schools to develop his skills.

"This just puts everything in perspective," Servia said. "I thought I had a bad day out there, and then you hear about him being ambushed and having a sniper after him. I can't imagine something like that. Not only am I proud to represent the National Guard, but hearing about what these soldiers do for us is amazing."

***

The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Milwaukee IndyFest on June 15 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be televised live at 4 p.m. (ET) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211 and www.indycar.com. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Milwaukee 100 at 2 p.m. (ET) on June 15 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. (ET) on June 15

 
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