IndyCar: Despite miserable weekend, Power retains points lead

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Will Power’s weekend at Houston included: Two 18th place starting positions, an unforced error Saturday, a late-race mechanical issue Sunday, his first race where he didn’t finish on the lead lap, and two finishes outside the top-10.

It was not a great weekend for the Australian – it was nearly as bad as his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves’ 2013 Houston debacle – but yet Power retained what Castroneves didn’t coming out of the event last October, in the form of the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead.

Power’s Sunday race in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet saw him again roll off 18th, as the team missed the setup in qualifying for a second straight day.

But by the end of the first pit stop cycle, Power suddenly appeared third in the running order. He’d had a ridiculously strong first stint where he was passing cars almost at will.

However, a parts failure with just two laps remaining cost him the podium finish he appeared poised to gain. Power fell to 11th in the second Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston race of the weekend, after ending 14th on Saturday.

“It was a great first stint; we passed a lot of cars and got up to third,” Power told NBCSN post-race. “But it’s tough to fight that hard and not come away with anything. A part that failed on two other cars at Indy road race … rattled around, and it just failed completely at the end there with two to go.”

Despite his issues, Power left Houston with the same 39-point gap he had entering the weekend on Castroneves. Castroneves was ninth on Saturday and crashed out on Sunday after making contact with Sebastien Bourdais.

The crazy weekend that took its toll on the rest of the field meant no one driver was really able to maximize points. Only Sebastien Bourdais, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jack Hawksworth and Marco Andretti scored top-10 finishes in both races.

Power now heads to Pocono next week, where last year he finished fourth and was the only Chevrolet runner in the top-five. The Ganassi team swept the podium with its trio of Hondas and Josef Newgarden finished fifth in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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