Castroneves suffers early problems in GP of Houston

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IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader Helio Castroneves is in big trouble early on in Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

Castroneves entered today’s race 49 points ahead of Scott Dixon in the standings, but qualified a dismal 22nd this morning. Early in the race, his crew opted to roll the dice on strategy, bringing him in for a stop on Lap 13 and having him go to the red ‘alternate’ tires.

But on Lap 23, Castroneves once again returned to the pits with apparent shifting issues on his No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet. That caused the Brazilian to endure a lengthy stop while his crew went about replacing the gear stack on his car. Meanwhile, his main title rival, Dixon, is currently battling Will Power for the lead.

Going into Houston, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner had completed every lap of every race this season. But thanks to the repairs, he has now fallen nine laps off the pace. For him, the rest of today’s 90-lap event will be all about salvaging as many points as possible.