For the first time this season, there is clear separation at the top of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings. The clarity has extended to the power rankings as well with the list looking very similar to the season standings.
The reasons are very much connected as drivers with the most momentum are starting to break away from the pack, after seven races full of parity and close competition.
Helio Castroneves entered the Firestone 550 at Texas tied for the championship lead with Marco Andretti, but pulled away and solidified his hold on the top spot with his fourth win at the high-banked Texas oval.
As a result, Castroneves maintained his top spot in the rankings for the second week in a row and is looking to carry that momentum into this weekend's race at the historic Milwaukee Mile.
1. Helio Castroneves (LW: 1)
The Team Penske veteran entered the weekend at the top of the power rankings chart and tied for IndyCar Series championship and left with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway. Castroneves was an easy pick for the top spot.
2. Marco Andretti (LW:3)
Andretti had arguably the second-best car at Texas Motor Speedway but a slight mess-up on pit road and lap traffic negated whatever chance Andretti had at catching his championship rival. Fifth is a little underwhelming when considering just how stout the Andretti team was on Saturday, but they didn't lose that much in terms of momentum.
He enters Milwaukee with a 22-point championship deficit.
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay (LW: 6)
Third in the standings is third in the power rankings.
Despite just one win, at Barber Motorsports Park in April, the defending IndyCar Series champion has started to put together a real run of consistent finishes. As a result, it should be just a matter of time before he returns to Victory Lane and could get there on Sunday at Milwaukee as he is the defending race winner.
4. Tony Kanaan (LW: 7)
The defending Indianapolis 500 winner proved that his powerful Indy performance was not a one-off surprise. The KV Racing Team Chevrolet scored a third-place at Texas and its driver was poised to capitalize on any mistakes Castroneves or Hunter-Reay could make in front of him.
The mistakes never came but Kanaan should be equally tough at Milwaukee. He gets a bonus point for his Castroneves victory lane impersonation as well. Don't count out the 2004 series champion for another title run — he's lurking at 64 markers behind.
5. Dario Franchitti (LW: 10)
Dario Franchitti has gone from championship outsider to legitimate threat after a sixth-place at Texas Motor Speedway. While no one doubts the pedigree and talent of the four-time champion, Franchitti could be establishing his greatest story yet if he continues to climb back into the championship fray.
A believable win at Milwaukee could creep him ever-closer to the top-five.
6. Scott Dixon (LW: 2)
Based purely on the Firestone 550, Dixon doesn't really warrant a spot on the top-10 list. But like a season championship, one race doesn't dictate a trend. It's a clear drop from second in last week's list but Dixon would have likely been a player at the end of Saturday night if not for an engine failure early in the race.
7. EJ Viso (LW: NR)
Qualified strong, contended early and faded late. A top-10 at Texas is still quite the accomplishment in EJ Viso's renaissance season.
8. Simon Pagenaud (LW: 5)
The Frenchman followed up his win at Detroit with a 13th at Texas Motor Speedway. While not spectacular, that has been the key to his success this season. Capitalize on his best tracks and survive on his worst. He could be a surprise championship contender, only if he continues to avoid complications for the rest of the season.
9. Ed Carpenter (LW: NR)
The Indiana native is the most prolific oval racer in the modern era of Indy car racing. What else can be said?
10. Will Power (LW: NR)
The pole-sitter "struggled" to the tune of seventh-place on Saturday night. While it is one of the best finishes of his frustrating 2013 season, Team Penske had to be hoping to get more out of their ace, especially when his teammate dominated the race on a similar set-up.