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

Defending winner Takuma Sato to grace front of 2018 Indy 500 tickets

Photos: IMS/Chris Owens
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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has unveiled what the ticket for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will look like.

The ticket features blue and red foil stamped with a sculptural embossing of last year’s 500 winner, Takuma Sato, in victory lane, holding the ceremonial winner’s bottle of milk. Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, driving for Andretti Autosport.

The ticket was revealed Thursday during a ceremony at the Indiana Statehouse that featured Sato, now with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as well as Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, Hulman & Company President and CEO Mark Miles, IMS President J. Douglas Boles and Hulman Motorsports Senior Vice President of Events Allison Melangton.

The Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be held Sunday, May 27 at IMS.

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