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.