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Poring Through the Numbers

The IZOD IndyCar Series kindly provides the media with an end-of-season “Trackside” guide that compiles all the relevant box scores and statistics from the 2012 season.

It’s fascinating reading, even for a casual follower of the sport. And if you follow the action closely on a race-by-race basis, some interesting statistics really stand out.

Everyone knows that Ryan Hunter-Reay used a series-high four race victories to win the championship by three points over Will Power. But would you have guessed that Scott Dixon led three times as many laps?

Dixon led the IZOD IndyCar Series by running 456 laps at the front of the field, compared to 294 for championship runner-up Power and 153 for titlist Hunter-Reay. Power’s Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves led 265 laps.

But while Hunter-Reay converted his 153 laps in the lead into four race wins, Dixon won just twice – at Detroit and Mid-Ohio. It’s only the third time since 2001 that the driver who led the most laps didn’t win the championship, and the last time it happened (in 2009), Dixon was also the driver who led the most but came up short in the title sweepstakes.

In terms of the number of races led, Power was the series leader, having paced 10 of the 15 events. Dixon and Ryan Briscoe led nine each, followed by James Hinchcliffe with eight. Castroneves and four-time series champion Dario Franchitti led seven races apiece, while Hunter-Reay led just six – but again, turned four of them into race wins.

Dixon, who finished third in the championship, led the series with eight top-five finishes, besting the seven achieved by Hunter-Reay and Power. But Dixon’s fest-or-famine year left him ranked only fourth in top-10 finishes with nine – three fewer than achieved by Castroneves. As closely matched as their point totals ended up, it’s no surprise that Power and Hunter-Reay were tied with 10 top-10s each.

In a nice rebound from his troubled 2011 campaign in which he failed to finish seven races, Castroneves completed more laps than anyone in 2012. The reliability record of the Chevrolet-powered cars that the Penske team prepared for the Brazilian allowed him to complete 1,965 of a possible 1,968 laps. Rookie Simon Pagenaud came closest with 1,961 laps completed, followed by Ed Carpenter with 1,885.

Of the championship notables, Dixon was ninth on the list (1,775 laps); Hunter-Reay was 10th (1,722), Franchitti was 13th (1,678) and Power was a dismal 21st, finishing just 1,478 of 1,968 laps (75.1 percent).

The big hits came in three oval races in which Power crashed out: Indianapolis (Lap 79 of 200), Iowa (Lap 67/250) and Fontana (crashed on Lap 55; completed 66 of 250 laps).

Power was the clear leader with five pole positions, topping Franchitti with three, Briscoe with two and five drivers with one, including Hunter-Reay.

Power also led in another category that awards bonus points – most laps led in a given race. Power and Dixon each did that four times, earning them eight bonus points apiece. Hunter-Reay earned four bonus points for leading the most laps twice.

Despite scoring a series-high 13 bonus points, Power still came up three points short of Hunter-Reay in the championship. Where will the snake-bitten Power find the extra points he needs to finally win a title in 2013?
 

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