Dixon up 25 points on Helio as final battle looms at Fontana

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With one race remaining in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship, only two drivers remain in the title hunt: Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves.

Dixon’s runner-up finish in today’s Race 2 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston (won by Will Power) enabled him to move ahead of Castroneves by 25 points as the focus shifts to the season-ending MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway outside Los Angeles in two weeks.

If Dixon can finish fifth or better in that event, he’ll secure his third career IndyCar title (2003, 2008).

“I think we had a good shot of making the points level coming out of here, but to make that gain – I think we as a team knew we had the potential of winning both races, especially on street courses at the moment,” Dixon said. “But you can never predict how the competition’s gonna be or the problems they may have.

“It’s still going to come down to the wire – a last lap, last corner kind of situation that we all expect…It’s going to be a fun race. We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve got to go in with the mindset of winning the race. If we can do that or be on the podium, job accomplished.”

After being forced to endure a lengthy repair to replace a gear cluster in Saturday’s Race 1, Castroneves suffered mechanical issues again on Sunday – this time with the gearbox housing on his car.

His Team Penske crew was able to get him back on the track at Lap 47, but he only improved one spot during the remaining laps and finished 23rd. Still, in a tight championship battle such as this, every position counts for something.

“We’ve had great luck for most of the season,” said Castroneves, who had led the championship by 49 points going into the Houston doubleheader. “Now in a weekend, everybody’s dream has become an interesting scenario.

“I will tell you one thing: This team is a testament to never giving up, and I have faith in these guys that they are going to do everything they can to make it happen in Fontana.”

As for Simon Pagenaud, his bid for the championship came to a close this afternoon, as his sixth-place finish was not enough to keep him in contention. The Frenchman needed to be within 54 points of the leader after today’s race to have any shot going into Fontana; instead, he’s 55 points back.

Nonetheless, he’s still capable of finishing runner-up in the championship, which would mark a considerable improvement from his fifth-place showing last year.

IZOD IndyCar Series
Unofficial Championship Points after Race 2, Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston

Scott Dixon – 546
Helio Castroneves – 521
Simon Pagenaud – 491
Justin Wilson – 460
Marco Andretti – 457
Ryan Hunter-Reay – 446
Will Power – 444
Dario Franchitti – 418
James Hinchcliffe – 417
Charlie Kimball – 406

FIA returns Manor’s F1 entry fee for 2017

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Good news: Manor Grand Prix Racing Limited got a refund of an entry fee it paid to the FIA to run in this year’s F1 season.

Bad news: Manor still hasn’t run this year, and won’t be for the foreseeable future (especially as Manor’s former leadership staff is moving that team into FIA WEC’s new-look LMP1 class in addition to its LMP2 program).

Manor Group’s receivership outfit, Just Racing Services Limited, went into administration earlier this year. As there was no new buyer for the F1 team, Manor dropped from the 2017 grid before the season.

The FIA said it would return its entry fee to help Manor Group pay off outstanding debts.

It basically means nothing in the grand scheme of things since Manor missed out on 10th place in the constructor’s standings in 2016 and fell from the F1 grid as a result, but hey, it’s a goodwill gesture going into Thanksgiving this week.