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.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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