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!

Race Recap: Milwaukee IndyFest

The Milwaukee Mile is a one mile oval track with, essentially, flat corners resulting in a race experience that requires driver skill and mechanical grip to be fast.

Qualifying was held on Friday with Dario Franchitti grabbing the Pole Position, but the real story of qualifying was the seven cars receiving ten spot grid penalties for unapproved engine changes.  These drivers included Texas winner Justin Wilson, Ryan Briscoe, Points Leader Will Power, and 2nd in Points Scott Dixon.

The race began with Dario Franchitti leading the lion share of the early laps.  The first caution flag was brought out by a single-car spin by Simona de Silvestro ending their day.  de Silvestro’s spin occurred right in the middle of green flag stops with Helio Castroneves in the lead.  Castroneves led much of the middle of the race, but fell back due to tire strategy.  Enter Ryan Hunter-Reay.  Hunter-Reay led the final stint of the race winning the event with Tony Kanaan coming in second place.  Dario Franchitti crashed out after contact with the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske car driven by Ryan Briscoe.  Scott Dixon finished 11th after being penalized for jumping a restart!

The Dixon Penalty became a huge point of contention in the race because Beaux Barfield enforced the penalty after viewing a replay, however, the replay was not of the restart that Dixon was supposedly penalized for.  Instead, it was a replay from earlier in the race on a restart that was waved off by race control.  Barfield’s call likely cost Dixon second in points as James Hinchcliffe took over that position with his third place run.

The Milwaukee IndyFest was, effectively, the last chance for the oldest track in the United States of America to remain in business.  Originally left off of the 2012 schedule, Milwaukee was thrown a lifeline by Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti.  In terms of INDYCAR sanction, Milwaukee has been one of the most exciting and beloved stops on the schedule, however, track promoters were left with old bad debts and hurt feelings putting the track’s future in question.  The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series event produced the exciting racing that was expect but a sub-15,000 person crowd put the event’s future in question.  Enter Michael Andretti.

Michael Andretti has used all of his pull, sponsors, and cars to promote this event.  Since the season began, all of Andretti Autosport’s cars carried logos and web addresses for the Milwaukee IndyFest keeping the event at the forefront of the minds of the fans and media.  The 2012 event saw a jump in fan attendance from the 15,000 from 2011 to over 20,000 marking a 25 percent increase.  The event seems to have bailed itself out as before the Drivers Start Your Engines command, given by Michael Andretti, it was revealed by the promoter that the race would return on the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule which is a big win for all!  Michael Andretti will, once again, don his promoter pants when he helps promote the second Baltimore Grand Prix later this year!


The IZOD IndyCar Series takes to the corn fields of Iowa on June 23rd for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway.  Qualifying for the race will be determined by heat races for the first time in IZOD IndyCar competition so make sure to tune in for that!