Houston Race 2 Update: Power leads Dixon; Castroneves back in race after repairs

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Team Penske’s Will Power (pictured) and Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon are scrapping for the lead as the second race of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston has crossed the halfway point.

For the second straight day, the initial attempt at a standing start went awry as both Takuma Sato and Dario Franchitti were unable to get going. The second attempt went smoother, with Castroneves able to get past Dixon for the lead as they headed into the Turn 1-2 chicane.

But, the day’s opening caution quickly came out after a three-car incident in Turn 8 involving Tristan Vautier and Graham Rahal. Rahal was looking to set up Vautier for a pass on the inside, but Simona de Silvestro was also making a move on Rahal at the same time.

The result: Both Rahal and Vautier went into the tires; however, they were able to continue on and De Silvestro was hit with a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.

The drama continued on Lap 12, when Helio Castroneves suddenly lost power heading for Turn 6 – enabling Scott Dixon to take the lead of the race. Castroneves stopped on track, and when he was returned to pit road, his Team Penske crew diagnosed a cracked gearbox housing on the Brazilian’s machine.

While the Penske camp worked feverishly to fix the problem, Dixon settled in as the leader during the next green flag stint. An incident involving Luca Filippi brought out the yellow around Lap 30, and in the subsequent stops, Dixon was able to narrowly beat Power out of pit road to retain command of the race.

The green came back out at Lap 32, but Ryan Hunter-Reay was unable to get up to speed thanks to an apparent gearbox issue of his own. Shortly afterwards, the yellow returned on Lap 34 for Tony Kanaan’s crash around Turn 7.

That bunched up the field again for a restart at Lap 40, which eventually saw Power get around Dixon for the lead in the middle of Turn 3. In the same lap, Sebastien Bourdais also managed to pass two cars on the inside in Turn 6 and moved into the Top 5.

After 45 of 90 laps, Power led by six-tenths of a second over Dixon, followed by Sebastian Saavedra, who has risen to third thanks to the multiple cautions in the first half of the race. James Hinchcliffe is up to fourth, and Bourdais is still in fifth.

On Lap 47, Castroneves officially made his way back into the race – once again forced to salvage as many championship points as he can.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.