Unpredictable IndyCar Series shifts to Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas -- This might be the oddest Verizon IndyCar Series season on record.
Nearly halfway through the 17-race schedule, points leader Scott Dixon has not won a race, and he has gained the most attention for getting robbed at gunpoint at a Taco Bell and then having his car fly through the air at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Amazingly, he avoided injury in each case.
Helio Castroneves, who is second in the standings heading to Saturday night's race at Texas Motor Speedway, ranks third among the season's leaders in laps led and second in poles. Similarly, however, he does not have a race win.
The season's first seven races saw seven different winners, and more often than not a Honda powered them. Last year, it was Chevrolet most often pacing the field, but this is a sport that reigns parity.
Usually strong Team Penske has three race wins, yes, but its four drivers haven't visited Victory Lane in nearly a month. Also, they weren't all that competitive in the Indianapolis 500 or last weekend's two races in Detroit, an event promoted by a company owned by team boss Roger Penske.
The stars of the season show so far: Takuma Sato, whose victory in the 500 was just his second race win in the series, and Graham Rahal, who won both races in Detroit. And Honda, of course.
"We talk all the time about how competitive this series is, and this season is showing it more than ever," Rahal said. "You just can't take a moment off in this series."
Next up are 248 laps at this 1.5-mile oval track that are historically unpredictable. The south end of the track, where Turns 1 and 2 rest, have been reconfigured and resurfaced since last year's event. How that impacts the racing action remains to be seen.
James Hinchcliffe led 188 laps in last year's race, but he wasn't in front at the checkered flag. That honor went to Rahal, who officially led only one lap -- the last one -- and technically only led the final two corners.
Rahal enters this race as the only driver to have won more than one race this season, and he has won the past two, both in convincing fashion. He led nearly 69 percent of the weekend's laps.
This will be the 29th IndyCar race at this track, which opened in 1997, and Castroneves leads all drivers with four wins. Dixon is the only other driver with as many as two race wins here.
Dixon holds an eight-point lead over Castroneves in the season standings, and Sato is 11 points out of the top spot. Simon Pagenaud, who won the April 29 race at Phoenix Raceway, is 25 points in arrears of Dixon. Josef Newgarden, the race winner April 23 at Barber Motorsports Park, and Rahal are 44 and 52 points off the pace, respectively.
Will Power, who won the Indianapolis road race May 13, has consistently had poor luck, which explains why he is far and away the leader in laps led this season (187, which is 58 more than second-place Pagenaud) and the top pole winner (three) but eighth in the standings.
Sebastien Bourdais, who won the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla., remains out as he recovers from a vicious crash in qualifying for the 500. He sustained pelvic fractures and a broken hip in the May 13 accident, and Tristan Vautier will drive the No. 18 car of Dale Coyne Racing this weekend.
Qualifying for this 360-mile race is Friday at 3:15 p.m. ET with the race's green flag set for Saturday at 8:45 p.m. ET, all on NBCSN.