Castroneves can be fifth straight driver to overtake points leader in final race

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One of two historical markers will be achieved when it comes to deciding this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship at Auto Club Speedway, the MAVTV 500 at Fontana, Calif. this Saturday night.

Either Scott Dixon will match his numerological run of a title every five years (2003, 2008), or, Helio Castroneves will become the fifth straight driver to overtake the points leader in the final race.

Dixon has only been in contention for the title at the last race once in the last four years. At Homestead in 2009, he entered the weekend with a five point lead on teammate Dario Franchitti. That was erased when the Scotsman won as Dixon and Ryan Briscoe, Team Penske’s title challenger that year, needed an extra splash of fuel and finished in arrears.

But in each of the last three years, the other member of Team Penske, Will Power, has held the lead and managed to lose it every single time.

In 2010, it was due to contact at Turns 3 and 4 at Homestead. In 2011, Power was hit by another car in pit lane at Kentucky. And in 2012, at Fontana, Power lost control through Turns 1 and 2 and crashed out. Franchitti took the 2010 and 2011 crowns with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning last year’s.

Castroneves – who had led the points for 10 straight races through Houston Race 1 – now enters from a position of nothing to lose, rather than in a spot where he has the same pressure to keep the lead a la Power.

“That’s the mentality; we have nothing to lose, and we are going for it,” Castroneves said in a conference call last week. “Whatever it takes, we are going for it. Taking risks, taking every risk, to be honest, to put ourselves in that position. We feel as a team we have the equipment and we have the power, so we’ve just got to believe it.

“I know he’s strong enough mentally because he’s been in these situations,” Castroneves added of Dixon’s mental state. “But who knows what could happen.”

Castroneves enters 25 points down to Dixon. Any top-five result for Dixon secures the Ganassi driver the title, regardless of Castroneves’ result. A title for Castroneves would be the first of his 16-year IndyCar career and the first for Team Penske since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.