IndyCar title watch: Helio keeps Dixon, Hunter-Reay at bay

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Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course had four-time M-O winner Scott Dixon starting up front and well ahead of his IZOD IndyCar Series title rival, Helio Castroneves, who was rolling off 14th on a track where passing is tough to come by.

But instead of the seemingly preordained result of Dixon chopping into Castroneves’ points lead, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner turned in a drive that could wind up earning him the series championship later this fall. Castroneves was able to climb from mid-pack and take a sixth-place finish at the checkered flag – right in front of Dixon in seventh.

The net gain for Castroneves may appear to be a mere two points – his lead over Dixon increased to 31 points overall with five races left in the season – but considering how IndyCar’s recent championship battles have had a funny way of coming down to the wire, those additional two markers earned on Sunday may mean everything in the end for the Brazilian.

“If you would have told me we would have finished in the top-10 today, I would have said you were crazy,” said Castroneves. “I know that it was only a sixth place finish, but it could win the Championship at the end of the year.

“I have said all along that we will continue to do our thing and not change a thing and it will pay off at the end of the day.”

In addition to finishing ahead of Dixon, Castroneves also minimized gains made by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who remains third in the standings.

The defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion led 30 of 90 laps and earned a fifth-place finish on Sunday, but only picked up four points on Castroneves; he is now 65 markers back going into the next race, the GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway (Sun., Aug. 25, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).