Dixon, Pagenaud gain on title leader Castroneves after Houston Race 1

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With Scott Dixon (pictured) capitalizing on Helio Castroneves’ rough afternoon by winning Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, the drama is back in their IZOD IndyCar Series championship battle.

By taking his fourth win of the season, Dixon was able to cut his deficit to the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner from 49 points going into today all the way down to a mere eight markers as we head for Race 2 tomorrow afternoon.

“I hope they’re worried, man,” Dixon told NBCSN’s Marty Snider afterwards. “It’s a 41-point turnaround today and hopefully, we can have another good race tomorrow.

“It’d be nice to be in the lead going into [the season finale] at [Auto Club Speedway] – we know Chevy is strong, but the Honda is definitely strong over the 500 mile [race]. To have a little bit of a buffer would be really nice, but I can’t thank everybody on the team enough…”

Castroneves suffered early shifting issues and the subsequent lengthy stop for repairs on pit road knocked him nine laps off the pace before he came home 18th. But he chose to stay positive, noting and appreciating that he was still able to keep hold of the points lead despite his woes.

“It just gets more exciting for you guys,” Castroneves told NBCSN’s Jan Beekhuis, referring to the fans. “I was very worried about the car, to be honest. We changed a lot from qualifying to the race and I was very happy that we were at least able to be competitive.

“It’s a shame [about the gearbox problems] – those things are outside of our control. Tomorrow, that’s it – no more being conservative. We just keep going, and moving forward.”

Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud continued his bid to become a legitimate third horse in the championship. The Frenchman finished fourth on Saturday, enabling him to pull within 50 points of Castroneves – a swing of 20 points in his favor.

“Most importantly, I’m still in it,” Pagenaud said to NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “We had a good day. I think we need to improve [the car] a little bit overnight. I think we can have a shot at the win tomorrow. The car, when it’s going, when tires are up to temperature and the brakes also, it’s flying.

“We’re not far, just a tick off. But we’ll work on that. It’s great to be in it, because there’s two races remaining and I’m really excited, so I’m gonna push hard tomorrow.”

IZOD IndyCar Series
Unofficial Points after Race 1, Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston
Helio Castroneves – 513
Scott Dixon – 505
Simon Pagenaud – 463
Marco Andretti – 447
Ryan Hunter-Reay – 437
Justin Wilson – 428
Dario Franchitti – 403
Will Power – 391
James Hinchcliffe – 382
Charlie Kimball – 382

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.