The signs were all pointing in the right direction. Helio Castroneves carried a 49 point lead on Scott Dixon into the Houston double-header only needing to maintain consistency to solidify his name atop the IndyCar Points standings signifying him the winner of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship. Not since 2004 has IndyCar seen a driver compete with the consistency that Helio Castroneves has traversed in 2013. Add to that that the Team Penske driver was ‘untouchable’ on the speed chart during the test at Auto Club Speedway which will serve host to the IndyCar World Championships on October 19. All Castroneves had to do was keep his nose clean during the Houston weekend and he would clasp his firm grip on the championship. The IndyCar gods had other plans.
The 2013 season has seen Castroneves benefit from others misfortune on numerous occasions, and, while he deserves credit for putting himself in the position to take advantage of those miscues, it had to come back around at some point. Luck in racing is like a one hit wonder music artist in that it shines on you for a while and goes away overnight. Castroneves wishes it had shined for a few weekends more.
The weekend started out badly for Castroneves as a mishandling car in qualifying on Saturday resulted in a starting grid position of 21st, his worst of the season on one of the most physically demanding circuits on the IndyCar schedule. Even with the poor grid position, Castroneves only needed to, methodically, drive his way up through the field as he had done countless races previous, but the unthinkable happened on lap 22 when Castroneves’ No. 3 Shell V-Power Chevrolet slowed in turn four and limped to pit lane with a gearbox issue. Team Penske rectified the issue but not before Castroneves found himself several laps in arrears of the leader who just happened to be title rival Scott Dixon. The worst case scenario had occured as Dixon secured the race win and maximum points while Castroneves was forced to settle for 17th place…a result that his points lead shrink to just eight markers heading to the second race of the weekend on Sunday.
As day broke on Sunday, Castroneves and the No. 3 team caught a break from mother nature as a heavy rain shower washed out qualifying for race two putting Castroneves on the Pole with his rival, Dixon, right alongside. After a great start, Castroneves hit a colossal bump on the front stretch fracturing the gear box housing putting him behind the wall and last place in the running order. The worst possible weekend that Castroneves could have dreamed of happened and he leaves Houston, a weekend he entered leading by 49 points, trailing Dixon by 25 points heading to the finale at Auto Club Speedway.
The scenario becomes very simple headed to Fontana in two weeks. In order to win the title, Helio Castroneves will have to be at least as special as what was indicated in the test session and he will need some mishap for Dixon. With 25 points separating the two, if Castroneves wins Pole Position, leads the most laps, and wins the race he has a maximum possible points of 53 for the weekend. Even if Castroneves scores max points that weekend, Dixon can finish sixth and still win the IndyCar Series championship. This is far from over and five hundred miles is a long time to race to decide this thing. Rest assured, no matter what happens in the championship, the IndyCar finale at Auto Club Speedway will be one of the races to watch across the 2013 motorsports calendar! Make sure to tune in to see how it all finishes out!