Castroneves can be fifth straight driver to overtake points leader in final race


One of two historical markers will be achieved when it comes to deciding this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship at Auto Club Speedway, the MAVTV 500 at Fontana, Calif. this Saturday night.

Either Scott Dixon will match his numerological run of a title every five years (2003, 2008), or, Helio Castroneves will become the fifth straight driver to overtake the points leader in the final race.

Dixon has only been in contention for the title at the last race once in the last four years. At Homestead in 2009, he entered the weekend with a five point lead on teammate Dario Franchitti. That was erased when the Scotsman won as Dixon and Ryan Briscoe, Team Penske’s title challenger that year, needed an extra splash of fuel and finished in arrears.

But in each of the last three years, the other member of Team Penske, Will Power, has held the lead and managed to lose it every single time.

In 2010, it was due to contact at Turns 3 and 4 at Homestead. In 2011, Power was hit by another car in pit lane at Kentucky. And in 2012, at Fontana, Power lost control through Turns 1 and 2 and crashed out. Franchitti took the 2010 and 2011 crowns with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning last year’s.

Castroneves – who had led the points for 10 straight races through Houston Race 1 – now enters from a position of nothing to lose, rather than in a spot where he has the same pressure to keep the lead a la Power.

“That’s the mentality; we have nothing to lose, and we are going for it,” Castroneves said in a conference call last week. “Whatever it takes, we are going for it. Taking risks, taking every risk, to be honest, to put ourselves in that position. We feel as a team we have the equipment and we have the power, so we’ve just got to believe it.

“I know he’s strong enough mentally because he’s been in these situations,” Castroneves added of Dixon’s mental state. “But who knows what could happen.”

Castroneves enters 25 points down to Dixon. Any top-five result for Dixon secures the Ganassi driver the title, regardless of Castroneves’ result. A title for Castroneves would be the first of his 16-year IndyCar career and the first for Team Penske since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.

Reaction to INDYCAR/NBC Sports Group announcement: Mario Andretti, Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal and social media

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Like countless others on the East Coast, Mario Andretti was fighting through a snowstorm Wednesday morning.

But emotionally and personally, it was a very bright and sunny day for the legendary Indy car driver.

In an exclusive interview with, Andretti spoke in glowing terms about this morning’s announcement of a multi-year media rights partnership between INDYCAR and NBC Sports Group beginning next year.

“I think this is awesome,” Andretti said. “It’s music to my ears and all of us. NBC has been very familiar with IndyCar racing, so they’re a great partner. I’m elated that it’s all nailed down, secured and I’m looking forward to the future.

“It’s also great for the young lads in Indy Lights coming on, and it’s great for all the sponsors to have that kind of exposure. It’s a good day for INDYCAR today.”

Andretti lauded the fact that all elements of INDYCAR coverage – TV, digital and streaming – will now be under one corporate roof, so to speak.

“Personally, I think it’s huge,” Andretti said. “Everybody is going to be very familiar with everything, the storylines are going to flow perfectly from event to event. There’s nothing like continuity.

“It’s okay sometimes if you have two networks, but to me, the best possible solution is this. That’s why I think this is really a great day for INDYCAR racing to have NBC involved and the continuity is huge for us.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

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Several other high-profile individuals within the IndyCar community also gave their take on Wednesday’s announcement, including statements from team owners Roger Penske and Bobby Rahal.

Roger Penske: “As an industry, we are very fortunate to have the NBC Sports Group grow their presence and coverage of INDYCAR racing and really invest in the future of the sport. We believe there is a great deal of positive momentum in the Verizon IndyCar Series right now, from the development of the new race car, to the very talented group of young drivers and new teams coming into the sport this season.

“With the announcement of the enhanced broadcast partnership with NBC, it certainly adds to the excitement for the future. We know that the ways our fans are watching races and viewing INDYCAR content is rapidly changing, so staying ahead of the curve and the developing technology with our partners is important to the growth of our sport. We look forward to working with the NBC team to continue to build INDYCAR and take the sport in new directions.

“We also need to thank ABC and ESPN for all their terrific coverage over the years. The ABC network helped bring some of the most memorable moments in racing to life – including many of our team’s Indianapolis 500 victories – and we appreciate all of their hard work and passion for INDYCAR racing.”

Bobby Rahal: “It’s great news. I think the fact that the IndyCar Series will be under one roof, so to speak, network-wise can do nothing but great things for our sport. To increase to having eight races on network TV is also great news of course.

“The quality of the NBC broadcasts have gotten better and better over the last several years. They do a great job of providing interesting and entertaining content for the viewers and I think that will only continue to grow with the relationship going forward. That type of storytelling is also what helps bring new fans to the sport.”



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