Dixon ‘over the moon’ after losing debate leads to second Texas win (VIDEO)

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FORT WORTH – Thirty minutes before the start of the Firestone 600, Scott Dixon was moaning.

He hadn’t gotten his way.

Sitting seventh on the starting grid, Dixon knew the front four cars, three of them belonging to Team Penske, had low-downforce settings simialar to what Dixon wanted.

The three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion had engaged in a 24-hour debate with Chris Simmons, the engineer on his No. 9 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Following the final Friday night practice session for the Firestone 600, Dixon wanted low downforce, Simmons wanted high.

Dixon thought the debate had gone his way.

“Then at about 1:00 this afternoon I got a text message from Chris Simmons saying we were going the other way,” Dixon said Saturday night. “Then I went and saw him and tried to push him to go back.”

Dixon’s argument didn’t work. After leading a race-high 97 laps and winning his 37th career IndyCar race, he wasn’t moaning. In victory lane, Dixon was “over the moon.”

“You put yourself in a situation to race hard at the end of the night with some good speed and we actually put a lot more (downforce) on,” Dixon said.

The debate went back and forth. We were thinking about splitting the cars as far as (downforce) levels and things like that. But in hindsight, I’m glad they understood what they were doing. That’s why they do what they do. I just drive the car.”

Dixon drove his way to his second win at Texas Motor Speedway, the first coming in 2008. His second win of 2015 gained him 20 points on championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya.

“At the start of the race I think we got a little bit too far back in the pack,” Dixon said.  “With the understeer we already had, it just built more.  By the middle run, we just had no front tires left on the car.

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“That’s where I think the team did a really good job through the night.”

Dixon’s strategist, Mike Hull said he believed three of the four Penske cars were running 10 percent less downforce than his car.

“As Scott said, the first go there, the first run, we were terrible,” Hull said. “The one that raced with us all night (Castroneves) was probably halfway between our downforce level and the other three cars.”

Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan took the lead for the second on Lap 103 and by Lap 110, Dixon was in second, remaining less than a second behind Kanaan for the next 30 laps.

“I knew obviously with the speed and how Tony had moved up there that the car was good because we weren’t too different, you know, especially on the levels of downforce,” Dixon said. “The mechanical side was a little bit different, but fairly close. I knew once we got the balance right, we could be up there with him, probably duel it out with him towards the end.”

On Lap 139 Kanaan hit pit road and Dixon assumed the lead for the first time. The rest of the 248-lap race, outside of green flag pit stop sequences, belonged to Dixon. He would get his dual with Kanaan but the Brazillian was never able to retake the point position. Dixon ultimately finished with a 7.8 second lead after green flag stops.

“Mid to latter part of the race, we were running a lot of flat-out laps,” Dixon said. “That was a transition where I thought there might be a crossover with some of the other guys that were trimmed out. We were able to manage the tires in the last 10 laps of a stint where it really counted, and we didn’t have much falloff, and that’s really what made the difference.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”