Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves suffered through a poor qualifying session on Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which may have opened the door for Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay to do some damage to his IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead.
Castroneves was unable to make it out of his first-round qualifying group and will start 15th in tomorrow’s Honda Indy 200 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay was able to get the pole position and Dixon, a four-time winner at M-O, will start third.
Going into tomorrow, Dixon sits second in points at 29 points behind Castroneves, while Hunter-Reay is third at 69 points behind.
“Starting 15th is not ideal when you’re going into the race as the points leader,” said Castroneves, who was still confident that he could make the ground up during the 90-lap race.
“We will need to work out a new strategy since we still start towards the rear of the field but the guys are working hard to make the right changes to the car…We’re going to try something different because what we were planning on doing tomorrow strategy-wise won’t work with as far back as we will have to start.”
For Hunter-Reay and his Andretti Autosport team, M-O is a place where they must stop a three-race slide that has seen them fall back considerably in the standings. To the American driver, now is the time to “go for broke.”
“We’re not interested in banking results right now and going for second or third in the championship, because nobody really remembers who finishes second a couple years from now,” he said after qualifying.
“It’s all about the series championship. We’re going for it. Hopefully this is the first step in it. But we got a long, long way to go, including tomorrow’s fight for the win.”
As for Dixon, who is looking to become the first driver to win four consecutive races under INDYCAR sanction, he is choosing to keep looking at the big picture and not so much at Castroneves.
“We got six races to go,” said the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver. “Anything can happen – mechanical [failures] or anything like that. We’re not focusing on Helio, we’re just focusing on what we need to do.”
Watch tomorrow’s Honda Indy 200 from Mid-Ohio online and on your mobile device.