Today’s Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Mid-Ohio kicks off championship stretch for Verizon IndyCar Series
2. HPD CR-Z debuts as Mid-Ohio Safety Car
3. Newgarden to participate in anniversary race
4. One Indy 500 winner honors another
1. Mid-Ohio kicks off championship stretch for Verizon IndyCar Series: Verizon IndyCar Series championship front-runner Helio Castroneves takes a 13-point lead over Team Penske teammate Will Power heading into the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 3, which kicks off the four-race sprint to the season finale on Aug. 30.
The MAVTV 500 on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval is the final Triple Crown series race that carries double points, which will play a role in determining the driver and entrant champions. Those titles have been decided in the season finale the past eight years.
“The last race, double points, I’m going to say there will be four people in contention,” Power said. “A lot can happen; (the points) can turn so quickly. You have to put your head down and not think about it and get the most out of every weekend.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay secured the 2012 championship over Power in 2012, while Scott Dixon earned his third series title in 2013 by outdueling Castroneves in the 2013 finale.
Hunter-Reay, who has a field-high three victories, is currently 69 points behind Castroneves. Simon Pagenaud, with victories on a road and street course this season, is 71 points back. Juan Pablo Montoya, the third Team Penske driver, is fifth in the standings (105 points behind Castroneves).
How the top four in the standings have fared since 2012 (introduction of the Dallara IR-12 chassis) at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Milwaukee Mile, Sonoma Raceway and Auto Club Speedway:
HELIO CASTRONEVES, TEAM PENSKE
6.75 average finish through the eight races
Best finish in 2012: Fifth in season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (started 17th).
Worst finish in 2012: 16th at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio (running; started 23rd).
Best finish in 2013: Second at Milwaukee (started 17th).
Worst finish in 2013: Seventh at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. (running; started fifth).
WILL POWER, TEAM PENSKE
6.125 average finish through the eight races
Best finish in 2012: Second at Mid-Ohio (started on pole) and Sonoma (started on pole).
Worst finish in 2012: 24th at Auto Club Speedway (crash; returning to race).
Best finish in 2013: Won at Sonoma (started fourth) and Auto Club Speedway (started on pole).
Worst finish in 2013: Fourth at Mid-Ohio (running; started second).
RYAN HUNTER-REAY, ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT
8.5 average finish through the eight races
Best finish in 2012: First at Milwaukee (started second).
Worst finish in 2012: 24th at Mid-Ohio (started seventh; mechanical).
Best finish in 2013: First at Milwaukee (started fourth).
Worst finish in 2013: Ninth at Auto Club Speedway (running; started 11th).
SIMON PAGENAUD, SCHMIDT PETERSON HAMILTON MOTORSPORTS
8.75 average finish through the eight races
Best finish in 2012: Third at Mid-Ohio (started third).
Worst finish in 2012: 15th at Auto Club Speedway (running; started 20th).
Best finish in 2013: Second at Mid-Ohio (started eighth).
Worst finish in 2013: 13th at Auto Club Speedway (mechanical; started 13th).
2. HPD CR-Z debuts as Mid-Ohio Safety Car: The new Supercharged HPD CR-Z will make its debut as a Verizon IndyCar Series Safety Car at the Honda Indy 200.
Based upon the production Honda CR-Z hybrid sports coupe, the HPD CR-Z includes enhancements to improve acceleration, handling and braking, all developed by Honda Performance Development in Santa Clarita, Calif.
Modifications installed by HPD include a supercharger, providing nearly 200 bhp and 155 lb-ft or torque; an HPD high-performance brake system; 18-inch alloy wheels fitted with P215/40R18 tires; aerodynamic body kit; and graphics package.
3. Newgarden to participate in anniversary race: Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver Josef Newgarden, the only American to win in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, will participate in the Sports Car Club of America Formula F 45th anniversary at Barber Motorsports Park.
Newgarden will race on Aug. 10 in a Honda-powered Piper Formula F, and participate as a speaker in the Formula F birthday celebration.
As a Team USA scholarship recipient in 2008, Newgarden won the Formula Ford Festival (Kent class) and spent a season racing in the British Formula Ford series.
4. One Indy 500 winner honors another: Four-time Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Rick Mears will be the honoree at the third Safelite AutoGlass Rally for the Ranch on Aug. 1 in Columbus, Ohio.
Proceeds from the event, hosted by 1986 Indy 500 winner and Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Bobby Rahal, will be directed toward The Buckeye Ranch and its programs for central Ohio youths and families dealing with mental, behavior and substance abuse issues.
In two years, the rally has raised $536,000.
The next Verizon IndyCar Series event is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 3 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be televised live at 3 p.m. (ET) by the NBCSN (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640/1640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network (Local affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213), the Verizon INDYCAR 14 App and www.indycar.com.