Will Scott Dixon’s pit road penalty today at Sonoma turn out to have been the deciding factor in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship?
With four events left in the season, Dixon still has time to catch points leader Helio Castroneves (pictured). But he was done no favors after Race Control gave him a drive-through penalty for knocking over two members of Will Power’s team while exiting his stall with 21 laps to go.
All of this benefited Castroneves, who survived a rock ’em, sock ’em sort of race on the northern California road course to finish seventh and push his edge over Dixon to 39 points (479-440) going into the Grand Prix of Baltimore (Next Sun., 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
The Brazilian escaped one particularly hazardous situation on the penultimate restart of the day at Lap 70, when he found himself sandwiched by James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti while going up the hill towards Turn 2. Contact was made, but Castroneves was able to hang on and keep going.
Afterwards, he was happy for his Team Penske teammate Power, who earned his first victory of the year.
“I’m happy that Will got his win – he was really aggressive and pushing as hard as he could,” said Castroneves. “He deserved it. I’m happy for him and happy to extend the points lead.
“I can’t believe it. With all that happened to us in the race, I’m extremely satisfied for the Hitachi Team Penske boys. Four more to go. Let’s keep going.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished one spot of Castroneves in sixth, but could have used a stronger result as he tries to keep himself in the championship mix.
He was hampered by an early call to stay out while the rest of the leaders pitted under yellow at Lap 18. Five laps later, he had to pit himself and lost valuable track position.
“It’s part of it; we have to take those gambles right now,” said Hunter-Reay. “We’re not interested in finishing second or third in the championship, and when that’s the case, you have to go for it all…That’s what we did.
“Disappointed – we had a great race car, but couldn’t do much with it back there. We worked our way from last up to sixth, but just ran out of laps.”
For the second race in a row, RHR had to settle for minimal progress on Castroneves. He’s now 62 points behind the three-time Indy 500 winner as the series heads for “Charm City.”
Hunter-Reay’s teammate, Marco Andretti, also didn’t gain much ground despite finishing fourth today; he’s at 70 points off the pace in fourth position.