IndyCar title watch: Call on Dixon allows Castroneves to pad lead

4 Comments

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.

Dixon had pitted from the lead with second-place Power right behind him. But thanks to the controversial call, Power went on to win and Dixon had to eventually take a 15th-place finish.

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.

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.