UPDATE (2:50 p.m. ET): On Lap 47 of today’s Race 2 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, Helio Castroneves returned to competition after a cracked gearbox housing on his car forced a lengthy repair from his Team Penske crew in the paddock.
Castroneves is currently running 24th – dead last – at 38 laps off the pace.
ORIGINAL: For the second time in two days, a mechanical problem has had a devastating impact on Helio Castroneves’ quest for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
After finishing 18th in yesterday’s Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston due to a lengthy gear cluster repair on his No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet, Castroneves lost power today on Lap 12 and came to a stop on course.
Prior to that point, Scott Dixon – who was running close behind Castroneves in the early fight for the lead – had been complaining of oil leaking from Castroneves’ gearbox.
When Castroneves was returned to pit road, the Team Penske crew discovered a cracked gearbox housing on the No. 3 car according to Jon Beekhuis of NBCSN.
“Probably around the third or fourth lap, I felt a little vibration behind me every time I was shifting gears,” Castroneves told Beekhuis afterwards. “I was trying to keep my mind off of it, not think about it. I was trying to be as smooth as possible with Dixon behind me.
“And all of a sudden, I went to third gear on the backstraight and – nothing. I’m very disappointed for the Shell/Pennzoil boys, they did a hell of a job. But we just gotta think about Fontana now.”
Going into today, Castroneves’ lead was only a margin of eight points after Dixon took the checkered flag yesterday. Now the door is open for Dixon to also assume the championship edge going into the season finale in two weeks at Auto Club Speedway in California.