After running with the leaders for much of Saturday’s Iowa Corn Indy 300, Helio Castroneves faded late to an eighth-place finish.
But that was enough for him to assume outright control of the Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead after Penske teammate Will Power lost 10 positions following the final restart with nine laps remaining.
With seven to go, Power went high up in Turn 2 and had to fight to keep his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet off the wall. The Australian succeeded, but he paid the price with the heavy loss of position; he took the restart in fourth, but finished in 14th.
“It was a tough call at the end there,” Power said afterwards. “Had we went with the new tires we might have been looking pretty good. But a tough day to work hard with the Verizon Chevy doing so well, and then to finish fourteenth just wasn’t where we expected to be tonight. We’ll move forward and look ahead to Toronto.”
Meanwhile, Castroneves was happy to pick up the points lead going into the final doubleheader weekend of the year.
“To be honest, from the first practice session to the race, we changed a lot on this car and it was great,” Castroneves said. “We were running in the top three most of the day.
“Obviously, finishing in the eighth position isn’t where we deserved to finish. But it was a gamble there at the end. We are leaving here with the championship lead and that is what we need to focus on moving forward.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s win on Saturday enabled him to jump from fifth to third in the championship at 32 points behind Castroneves with six races left in the season.
Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya took a step back in the title fight at Iowa. Pagenaud finished 11th, causing him to fall to fourth in the standings at 50 points back.
But he was better off Saturday than Montoya, who slipped to fifth in the standings after crashing with 19 laps to go. The Colombian is now down 66 points.
However, with two races coming next weekend on the treacherous Honda Indy Toronto street circuit, this championship can very well have more twists and turns to come.