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