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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
Is Indy Lights the best training ground for drivers?

by Brian Carroccio
Thursday, January 23, 2014

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The Indy Lights cars generate too much downforce, thereby masking a drivers shortcomings.  And lack of testing and development does not prepare a driver for the big leagues.
Suffice to say, the IndyCar world has not exactly been a flaming hot bed of news in recent weeks. Throw in frigid temperatures through much of the country, and still more than two months until the track goes green in St. Petersburg, and yes, this is what one might call the peak of the doldrums for an IndyCar fan.

And I’ll be honest: I don’t have the low down on who will fill the second KV Racing Technology seat, or whether the National Guard sponsorship will head to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing or remain with Panther Racing. Nor do I have anything of substance to offer with regard to where popular drivers such as Oriol Servia, J.R. Hildebrand, Conor Daly or Simona de Silvestro will land, if they do in fact, land anywhere in IndyCar.

But if you’re looking for something IndyCar related to chew on, you’ve come to the right place. Get this: No post-2001 graduate of Indy Lights has won a pole on a road or street course in Champ Car or the IRL (IndyCar) in the last seven seasons.

Now, before moving ahead let me add a few clarifications. Graham Rahal won the pole for the 2009 St. Petersburg race and made one Indy Lights start (2006 Freedom 100). However, Rahal’s primary development was via the Atlantics Series, and for the purposes of this discussion I’m speaking of those who have spent more substantial time in the Lights series.

You might make note of “Speedy” Dan Clarke. Remember, Clarke won the pole for the 2006 Road America Champ Car race, and would later run all but one of the Indy Lights races in 2010. So, I suppose Clarke could be considered a Lights graduate, although his pole oddly occurred four years prior to earning his Lights degree. And he has not won a pole or for that matter, made a start at the top-level since.

Let me also make clear, I’m not slamming Indy Lights or the Mazda Road to Indy. Actually, Indy Lights graduates have won poles on road and street courses aplenty in IndyCar in recent years, specifically Helio Castroneves (class of 1997), Scott Dixon (2000), and Tony Kanaan (1997). Oriol Servia (1999), Bryan Herta (1993), each won pole positions during the 2005 seasons in Champ Car and the IRL respectively. What I am calling attention to is the fact, no recent Lights grads have win road or street course pole positions. And that is because the most recent graduate of the Lights series (excluding Rahal, and the reverse career-path oddity that was “Speedy” Dan), to have earned a road/street course pole position in an Indy car series was, drum roll please:

Mario Dominguez (Indy Lights, class of 2001).

Dominguez, of course, earned his first and only pole for Forsythe Racing at the 2006 Houston Champ Car race. And with IndyCar now weighted about 70% in favor of road and street circuits, the fact the Series has not produced a pole winner on the twisties in over a decade, highlights what has become something of an Achilles Heel for the recent graduates of Indy Lights.

Yes, James Hinchcliffe, Alex Lloyd, Josef Newgarden, Tristan Vautier, Ana Beatriz, Marco Andretti, J.R. Hildebrand, A.J. Foyt IV, Ed Carpenter, Jeff Simmons, Rafael Matos, Sebastian Saavedra, Charlie Kimball and a host of others have spent substantial time in Lights. In three cases (Andretti, Hinchcliffe and Kimball) they have found victory lane at the top-level on road and street circuits. Carpenter, of course, has won on ovals. Carpenter and Andretti have won poles on oval tracks. Others such as J.R. Hildebrand and Josef Newgarden have contended for victories. Hinchcliffe also is a good, although not great, qualifier.

So, I am not saying Indy Lights grads have brought the series shame.

I am saying they have shown an inability to find the limit and lay down that all important, hot lap when the time comes, as they have combined for exactly zero poles on road or street courses.

Why is this?

I’ve polled some people more intelligent on this particular matter than myself, and arrived at some conclusions.

One is somewhat obvious, in that other than a few exceptions many of the above drivers have not enjoyed the luxury of top-level equipment. For example, we could say J.R. Hildebrand has never won a road or street course pole, and that would be true. But it is likewise true that Panther Racing has never been the gold-standard team for IndyCar road and street course qualifying.

Further, many of the best Lights drivers have not for whatever reason received substantial opportunities. Jean-Karl Vernay won the 2010 Lights championship, yet never started an IndyCar race. 2012 champ Vautier looks as though he may fall off the IndyCar map after one season. Wade Cunningham, Matos and other champs have had cups of coffee in IndyCar if you will, but nothing one that would be considered a substantial opportunity with a top team. 

Another, likely more telling explanation is the lack of seat time available to modern open-wheel drivers not only coming through the ladder in North America, but once they arrive at the top-level. Dixon, for example, often talks about the abundance of testing he was able to do for PacWest and Toyota during the height of the manufacturer wars in the CART days. Dixon learned how to manage fuel-mileage, and other elements of his race craft. He also was able to do what qualifying is ultimately about: finding the limits of the car.

Castroneves and the recently-retired Dario Franchitti also benefited from the less-restricted testing in those days, as did Kanaan to a lesser extent. With the economic changes in the sport, and testing restrictions, drivers nowadays often look for said limits during a race weekend. 

Another element that should be noted is funding. While it’s difficult to quantify a driver’s level of funding, and how it compares to another driver, greater funding does allow the luxury of bending a little metal, so to speak. And bending a little metal is often a prerequisite to finding the true limits and capabilities of the car. For the simple reason that greater resources are necessary to reach the pinnacle of the sport in Europe, drivers in the European ladder often begin with greater backing than their North-American counterparts.

Also, European drivers train exclusively on road courses. And because in road racing qualifying is at a greater premium, drivers do not have the luxury of qualifying deep in the field and making up significant ground. No, qualifying at the front of the field is not a luxury, but a prerequisite to success, as an aspiring race car driver who fails to do so, will be forced to find another line of work.

So for a variety of reasons, drivers who cut their teeth in disciplines aside from Lights tend to be better road and street course qualifiers once they reach IndyCar. 

And the best IndyCar qualifier of this era, Will Power, is one example of a driver who came to Indy car racing through cut-throat European junior formulae, specifically British F3 and World Series by Renault. Two other 2013 street course pole winners, Takuma Sato and Mike Conway, likewise cut their teeth in British Formula Three. Conway also did some time in GP2. Conway is of particular note, as he stepped into the Dale Coyne Racing car at Detroit this past year in a one-off for the doubleheader weekend cold if you will, before qualifying third and first for the two races.

Granted, it’s not as if Conway does this all the time. Still, Conway was able to find the limits of the car in an extraordinarily short period of time. This can probably at least in part, be attributed to his European junior experience, where a greater premium is placed on qualifying, and drivers are given more laps to find the limit.

Ryan Briscoe and Justin Wilson also provide illustrations. Briscoe, who has five career road and street course pole positions, did a stint in British F3. Justin Wilson, who has 8 career Indy car poles, all on the twisties, was of course, the 2001 Formula 3000 champion. Wilson and Briscoe along with Sato also had spells in F1 either as racers (Wilson and Sato) or test-drivers (Briscoe and Sato). And all three had the benefit of those seats prior to the introduction of significant testing restrictions. Sebastien Bourdais, who has 29 career road and street course poles (although none since 2007), and won the 2002 Formula 3000 title, is another example of a driver who benefited from the cut-throat European ladder.

Bourdais would also again, be someone who came-of-age during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the restrictions on testing were not what they are now. Also, with regard to Indy Lights, the evidence shows open-wheel ladder hopefuls clearly benefit from greater seat time in the European junior formulae, relative to those who climb the ladder in North America.

Now, that’s not to say those who climb the ladder in North America can’t be successful. After all, the best active IndyCar driver Scott Dixon was a Lights product. More recently, Indy Lights has made some strides in getting its top drivers IndyCar rides. And men such as Hinchcliffe, Andretti, and Kimball have found victory lane.

Still, one thing that clearly hampers recent Road to Indy graduates is a lack of qualifying pace on the road and street courses. Sure, guys like Hinchcliffe and Newgarden have shown the ability to move through the field and score strong results. For example, Newgarden started 25th at Sao Paulo before finishing fifth. He started 18th at Houston 1 and also finished fifth.

And maybe, Newgarden and Hinchcliffe haven’t had the same advantages enjoyed by others. Certainly, in the case of Newgarden he is not with a top team.

But the extraneous factors aside, we know this: if the recent MRTI graduates are ever going to take that next step, finding out how to extract more from that one, hot lap is a very good place to start. 

Brian Carroccio is an IndyCar Columnist for AutoRacing1.com. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.

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