Castroneves returns to Houston Race 2 (UPDATED)

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UPDATE (2:50 p.m. ET): On Lap 47 of today’s Race 2 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, Helio Castroneves returned to competition after a cracked gearbox housing on his car forced a lengthy repair from his Team Penske crew in the paddock.

Castroneves is currently running 24th – dead last – at 38 laps off the pace.

ORIGINAL: For the second time in two days, a mechanical problem has had a devastating impact on Helio Castroneves’ quest for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

After finishing 18th in yesterday’s Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston due to a lengthy gear cluster repair on his No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet, Castroneves lost power today on Lap 12 and came to a stop on course.

Prior to that point, Scott Dixon – who was running close behind Castroneves in the early fight for the lead – had been complaining of oil leaking from Castroneves’ gearbox.

When Castroneves was returned to pit road, the Team Penske crew discovered a cracked gearbox housing on the No. 3 car according to Jon Beekhuis of NBCSN.

“Probably around the third or fourth lap, I felt a little vibration behind me every time I was shifting gears,” Castroneves told Beekhuis afterwards. “I was trying to keep my mind off of it, not think about it. I was trying to be as smooth as possible with Dixon behind me.

“And all of a sudden, I went to third gear on the backstraight and – nothing. I’m very disappointed for the Shell/Pennzoil boys, they did a hell of a job. But we just gotta think about Fontana now.”

Going into today, Castroneves’ lead was only a margin of eight points after Dixon took the checkered flag yesterday. Now the door is open for Dixon to also assume the championship edge going into the season finale in two weeks at Auto Club Speedway in California.

Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

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While the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is still two months away from beginning its 2018 season, this past week did bring about news items that filled out the 2018 grid and shed some light on individual team and car launches as the season-opening Australian Grand Prix draws closer.

Below is a recap of F1 news from this past week:

Williams Signs Sirotkin for 2018 Drive, Names Kubica as Reserve Driver

The saga of the second seat at Williams Martini Racing was finally resolved early on in the week, with former Renault Sport F1 Team test driver Sergey Sirotkin officially confirmed as a teammate to the incumbent Lance Stroll in 2018.

The announcement concluded months of speculation that saw multiple drivers test for the team in an auditioning capacity. Most notably, Robert Kubica looked to be a main contender for the seat before Sirotkin emerged as the favorite.

However, Kubica, who has not raced in Formula 1 since a devastating rally accident in 2011 left him with brutal injuries to his right arm, was named as a reserve and development driver for the team.

This announcement also completes the 2018 Formula 1 driver lineup, with all 11 teams having their seats now filled. Among those who were left without F1 drives are Paul Di Resta, who drove for Williams at the Hungarian Grand Prix in relief of Felipe Massa and even tested with them during the Winter months, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.

Former Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also without a race seat for 2018, but did sign on with Scuderia Ferrari as a development driver.

Mercedes, McLaren Reveal Dates for Their 2018 Car Launches

While most teams have not yet released dates for when their 2018 cars will be publicly launched, three notables have.

Mercedes AMG Petronas will introduce its 2018 challenger on February 22nd, the same day Ferrari is doing so, while McLaren will unveil its car one day later on the 23rd.

Testing will commence on February 26th at Circuit de Catalunya.

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