Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Castroneves motivated to maintain momentum
2. Dixon focused on road ahead
1. Castroneves motivated to maintain momentum: With 20 drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series title, Helio Castroneves knows there is still a lot of racing left in the season and a lot of points on the table.
The Team Penske driver holds a 31-point lead over Scott Dixon and has a 65-point cushion over Ryan Hunter-Reay, the reigning series champion, entering the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25.
Castroneves says his mindset heading into the final five races is the same one he’s had since the start of the season: Take what you can get.
“(At Mid-Ohio) we took the necessary risk, not the unnecessary risk and I was proud of myself to judge that,” said Castroneves, who finished sixth in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, one spot ahead of Dixon and one position behind Hunter-Reay. “When I saw Scott was behind me and that Hunter-Reay was in front of me it was like ‘OK, boys. If they try to do something silly it will benefit me.’ They’re experienced enough though to do the same.”
The result meant Castroneves recorded his 10th consecutive top-10 finish and remains the only driver to complete every race lap. More importantly, he didn’t lose much ground to his championship rivals.
“It felt like a win with the expectations going into that race, what happened in the past, not having any yellows,” said Castroneves, , who’s been involved in the title chase four of the past five years at this point of the season but never in first place. “We were able to put ourselves in that position and stay ahead of our main competitors in the championship. Hey, I’ll take it. We have to keep doing what we’re doing; it’s been working.”
Castroneves turns his focus on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course in Sonoma, Calif., where he’s posted five top-10 finishes (including a 2008 victory that broke a 30-race winless streak).
He’s qualified in the top five in each of the eight races at the track, and a Team Penske car has won four of the past five races (Ryan Briscoe in 2012, Will Power in 2011 and ’10 and Castroneves in ’08).
“We know what we’ve achieved in the past,” said Castroneves, who is recovering from a hard crash on Aug. 9 during a Stock Car Brasil practice on a street course in his native Brazil. “I sent notes to my engineer the morning after Mid-Ohio about where we’re strong and the tires are the same. Hopefully, it will benefit us at Sonoma.”
2. Dixon focused on road ahead: Scott Dixon won his first two IZOD IndyCar Series titles five years apart.
It’s been five years since he won the title in 2008, but the Target Chip Ganassi driver is focused on the final five races of 2013, not history.
Leaving Mid-Ohio with a seventh-place finish, Dixon trails Helio Castroneves by 31 points in the championship. There are five races left, starting with the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25 – plenty of opportunities to overtake the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner.
“The swing can happen,” Dixon said. “We were 92 points out (entering the July 7 race at Pocono), and now we’re only 31. It really shows the never-give-up attitude of the team.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who earned his first series title last year in the final race by a scant three points, is 65 points behind Castroneves. Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti is fourth (76 points back). There are 20 drivers mathematically eligible for the championship entering the 85-lap race on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma road course.
Dixon, who won at the track in 2007 and was runner-up in 2011, has won three of the past four races as Chip Ganassi Racing is on a four-race winning streak (Charlie Kimball earned his first series victory at Mid-Ohio). He’s scored the most points of any driver on road/street courses, which comprise four of the final five events.
“We had a bit of an upset at Mid-Ohio, where it didn’t go our way, but we’ve got to bounce back and dig deep and try to get some good results for the last five,” Dixon said.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25 at Sonoma Raceway. The race will be televised live at 4 p.m. (ET) by NBC Sports Network and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211, www.indycar.com and the INDYCAR 13 App for most smartphones and tablets. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Baltimore 100 on Sept. 1 on the streets of Baltimore. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 1 p.m.