Consistency through the mid-season oval portion of the season allowed Helio Castroneves to maintain the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead.
Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay tied for the most points (186) through the five oval races that began with the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and concluded with the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco on July 7.
Both earned a victory in the run, with Hunter-Reay posting three other podium finishes. Twentieth place in the 160-lap Pocono race, in which the No. 1 DHL car for Andretti Autosport was hit from behind on pit lane by the No. 14 ABC Supply car driven by Takuma Sato, pushed Hunter-Reay back after starting second.
Castroneves followed up his win at Texas Motor Speedway a month ago with a runner-up to Hunter-Reay at Milwaukee. He’s placed eighth at Iowa Speedway and Pocono Raceway for 10 top-10 finishes in the 11 races.
“Whenever you're leading the championship, when it's by one point or 100 points, it's always good news,” Castroneves said. “Of course, we still have a long way, eight more races to go, a lot of points in the game. We've got to keep doing what we're doing because right now it's keeping us up there.
“The (Pocono) race was very challenging. For us, as a team, we had to make a lot of decisions during the race. Ultimately, the key was saving fuel for a good result and we'll take a top-10 finish and move on to Toronto with the good points we earned.”
Marco Andretti recorded two top-five finishes and two other top 10s for 140 total points on the ovals and remains third in the standings. Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe earned 134 points (win at Iowa, fifth at Milwaukee), but 24th place at Pocono because of a crash on the first lap dropped the Canadian to fifth heading to his hometown doubleheader July 13-14.
Scott Dixon’s victory at Pocono – his first since last August at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – vaulted the Target Chip Ganassi Racing champion into fourth and contention for his third series title with eight races remaining (one oval; the season finale Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway).
“Helio still has a sizable lead in the championship. We are 65 points off the lead,” Dixon said. “I think to make second is definitely achievable, but to start making some serious in‑roads on Helio, we need him to have a couple of bad races. Not wishing any bad luck on him, but that's what we will need.
“It has been a tough year. We've had some great races and we've had a lot of bad ones. That's motor racing. There are ups and downs, and sometimes things are out of your control. . Considering the crazy and poor results we've had throughout the year, it's still astonishing that we are fourth in the championship.”
IZOD IndyCar Series standings
Top 5 after 11 of 19 races
1. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske (Chevrolet) 356 points (186 oval points; 170 road/street course)
2. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport (Chevrolet) -23 points (186 oval; 147 road/street)
3. Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport (Chevrolet) -55 points (140 oval; 161 road/street)
4. Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing (Honda) -65 points (126 oval; 165 road/street)
5. James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport (Chevrolet) -84 points (134 oval; 138 road/street)