Lost in all the prestige of the Indianapolis 500 was the fact that for the first time the Verizon IndyCar Series awarded double points for the race meaning the biggest race of the season took on even more importance as far as the championship is concerned. The other two 500 mile races on the 2014 schedule, at Pocono on July 6th and season finale on August 30th at Auto Club Speedway, will also pay double points.
Added to the importance of the Indianapolis 500 was the fact that championship points were earned during Saturday's qualifying and also during the Fast Nine Shootout for the pole.
After the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and before qualifying Will Power held a one point lead in the standings over Ryan Hunter-Reay. Power had 149 points and Hunter-Reay 148. By qualifying 19th and winning the Indy 500 Hunter-Reay tallied 126 points just for the Indianapolis 500. He is the new points leader with 274 total points.
Will Power is now 50 points back with 234 total points after he accumulated 85 in the Indy 500. Helio Castroneves scored 118 points in the Indy 500 and is now third in the standings with 220 points. When qualifying had ended Simon Pagenaud had moved into second in points but he is now fourth with 211 points after finishing 12th and earning 68 points. Rounding out the top five is Marco Andretti who finished third and and scored 103 points in the Indy 500. He now has 192 total points meaning he scored more points during the Indy 500 than he had in the first four races of the season.
It goes to show how important the race at Pocono and then Auto Club Speedway will be later in the season as far as the championship goes. It also shows how important the event of the Indianapolis 500 is. Adding such a premium on points to the race is a great move by INDYCAR officials. The race that every driver wants to win the most should mean the most toward the championship as well.
The rest of the top 10 in the current point standings are rookie Carlos Munoz with 160 points in sixth. He actually jumped from 17th to sixth by way of his fourth place finish. Juan Pablo Montoya is seventh with 152 points, Sebasiten Bourdais is eighth with 143 points, Scott Dixon is ninth with 132 points, and Justin Wilson is tenth with 123 points. Kurt Busch earned 80 points in his one off Indy 500 ride and is 23rd of 35 drivers in the IndyCar points.
Kurt Busch started 12th and fell back to about 20th during the opening 250 miles of the race but kept in tow in the draft. Once the cautions started to fall in the final 100 miles Busch worked his way to the front slowly and when it was all said and done Busch finished an amazing sixth. He didn't seem to make a wrong move all race long which was very impressive especially on the tail of crashing in practice only six days earlier. Busch's bid to join Tony Stewart as the only driver to run all 1,100 miles in the Indy/NASCAR double fell short at 906.5 miles after having an engine let go in the Coca-Cola 600. Still Busch landed in fourth of the nine attempts at the double as far as miles completed go.
Busch's race at Indy was great but the real battle was just out ahead of him and was between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves. The two had the best two cars for the majority of the race (Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter were right on their heels as far as that goes). Hunter-Reay led nine times for 56 laps and Castroneves led five times for 38 laps. The epic battle the duo waged over the final six laps was astounding to watch.
Hunter-Reay in the end was able to etch his name into history forever while keeping Castroneves from joining rarified air and being in a list with AJ Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500. Oh yeah, Hunter-Reay did that with the second closest finish in the 98 year history of the race.
The Verizon IndyCar Series will have another important weekend as far a the championship is concerned this coming weekend with the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit where there will be two points paying races. Race 1 will be Saturday, May 31st and Race 2 Sunday, June 1st.Tags: Carlos Munoz, ed carpenter, Helio Castroneves, indianapolis 500, IndyCar, IndyCar Series, Kurt Busch, Marco Andretti, Motorsports, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power