And 49 Points Go ‘POOF’!


Castroneves Houstone 2013The 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.

Castroneves Car Houston 2013As 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.

Castroneves Auto Club 2012The 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!

Through Six Practice Days…Who Has What?!


97TH Indy500 LogoThrough six days of practice, the field for the Indianapolis 500 has left spectators with nothing to be disappointed about.  The weather has been cooperative allowing 9,000 some laps to be turned in six days with a full field of 33 cars all gracing the famed Brickyard with their presence.  Single car runs have dominated the early portions of the day while afternoons have seen packs of at least five cars running together.  The field in IndyCar for 2013 is so competitive that there is no clear favorite to win the Pole or the Race and the enigma that is the IZOD IndyCar Series grid in 2013 continues to grant no clarity.

Each weekend so far in the IZOD IndyCar Series has been a complete crap shoot of who will finish on top; a welcome problem for all of us fans who like to think that our favorite drivers have only a few other cars to worry about in a given race.  It used to be that though IndyCar Series races gridded at least twenty cars each weekend that only four or five drivers had a realistic opportunity to win the race.  Not so in 2013 as each member of the IndyCar grid has a realistic opportunity to find their way at the front and win the race.  The stats speak for themselves.

Go ahead and poll anyone who associates with INDYCAR and ask them if they predicted, going into the Indianapolis 500, that Takuma Sato would be leading the points standings and Will Power would be sitting in 18th position with only a single top ten finish in four races with left and right turns.  If they say they predicted such a situation they are lying their pants on fire.  The first four races of Power’s season are no indication of his competitive pace, but rather outside influences hindering his finishing positions.  This only further indicates that mistakes made in IZOD IndyCar Series races this season will cost you dearly because driving through the field is an order as tall as the Eiffel Tower.

Back to the Indianapolis 500, it seems that Chevrolet has the early jump on the speed chart but we’ve read this melodrama before.  Chevrolet easily had its way in qualifications snatching the Pole and eight of the top nine positions.  In fact, only Josef Newgarden was able to make the shootout at the end of Pole Day while the Ganassi operation was forced to start mid-pack.  While Chevrolet was basking in the Champagne of their gross outclassment of Honda in qualifying, their Japanese compatriots were licking no wounds as they had a plan in place when race engines were installed. Ganassi Hondas drove through the field taking it to Chevrolet in the race and captured INDYCAR’s crown jewel.

The bottom line is that through thirty hours of cars turning laps and practicing on track, we have no idea what anybody has stashed in the back of their DW12s for qualifying this weekend.  Teams get extra boost pressure in the turbo tomorrow so stay tuned as teams may, finally, show their hand in preparation for qualifying…but I doubt it.  Rest assured this will be the closest Pole Day qualifying show in the history of the Indianapolis 500 and Honda will certainly ensure they are not left out of the party as they were a year ago.