Oct 18, 2013, 12:08 PM EDT
A majority of the pre-event media obligations are done and dusted, and so this Friday at Auto Club Speedway, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves can at long last begin the task at hand: wheeling their respective cars as they battle for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship.
You know most of the important details. Dixon’s seeking his third championship per his “rule of fives” (2003, 2008), while Castroneves continues to push for his elusive first in his 16-year IndyCar career dating to 1998.
In 2013, Dixon has four wins and nine top-five finishes; Castroneves has only a solitary win but 15 top-10 finishes in the 18 races. Unfortunately for him, his run of consistency and finishing every lap thus far this season was thwarted two weeks ago in his sponsor’s (Shell and Pennzoil) race in Houston. And that means Dixon enters the MAVTV 500 in Fontana, Calif. (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) with a 25-point lead on his title rival.
They actually both enter this race in a position of strength. Dixon is the epitome of a cool, calm and collected customer, who’s been here many times previously and never seems to crack. Even when he was tested in back-to-back weeks of Sonoma and Baltimore a handful of races ago, and was fined as a result of some ill-timed or ill-aimed comments, he never lost his head when it came time to get down to business on the track. A crushing win in Houston Race 1 and a nearly as successful second-place in Race 2 was all he needed to regain the momentum.
Castroneves – from appearances already thus far in Fontana – seems to relish the underdog role. He’s said repeatedly it’s a “nothing to lose” scenario because he can just purely go for the win and see where things fall as it relates to Dixon. The only thing that must happen for the popular Brazilian to have a chance is for the Kiwi to finish outside the top five.
“The way I look at it, we have nothing to lose this weekend,” Castroneves said heading into the weekend. “We have had a great, consistent year and we need to close it out with another strong finish and whatever happens will happen. I know we want to end the season with a win in the Auto Club car at Auto Club Speedway so let’s go try and make that happen.”
Dixon’s successes this year have come in a variety of ways. He’s maximized the points on the three doubleheader weekends, with a full 263 points achieved from the six races to 180 for the next closest driver.
Additionally, he’s made the most of two races where he was otherwise unexpected to post a big result. At the season opener in St. Petersburg, he rallied from 20th place to fifth at the finish. And Pocono, a race he considers his most pivotal victory of 2013, came as a bit of a shock given where the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team had been on pace prior to it.
“St. Pete for us was a big shock because we thought we came in good on the development area and testing had gone OK. But to qualify 20th, and it was a straight-up qualifying effort, it’s not like we got blocked or had a mechanical. We were 20th,” Dixon said Thursday.
“From Saturday to Sunday we reverted to all 2012 stuff on the car, so we had a good base. It was not an easy weekend but a very humbling one. It was the pure reality of not being where we needed to be. Those races are a credit to where we are now.”
And so here we are, standing on the precipice of yet another Ganassi versus Penske title battle, with two of IndyCar’s longest-serving drivers ready to duke it out for 500 miles. It should be fascinating to watch.
Sep 21, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
4 p.m. ET – Already several laps down, Hamlin was caught in a multi-car crash that also involved Martin Truex Jr., David Ragan, and Cole Whitt.
Sep 21, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT
Kevin Harvick is the halfway leader of Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Joey Logano is running second, followed by Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers and Jamie McMurray.
Sep 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Spanish driver still pleased with the race weekend in Singapore, feeling that Ferrari has made a step forwards.
Sep 21, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
Less than a week after a track flagman was killed at a Florida short track, a Wisconsin sprint car driver was killed following a wreck on Saturday night.
Sep 21, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Bottas finishes outside of the points for the first time in 2014, with his only other non-score the result of a DNF at Monaco.
Sep 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Kvyat and Magnussen both go without water for much of the race, leaving them dehydrated following the race.
Sep 21, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
German driver lost the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time in four months.
Sep 21, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Less downforce? More horsepower? Or something else entirely? It sounds like we won’t have to wait much longer on what the 2015 Sprint Cup rules package will bring.
Sep 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Australian driver enjoys a great deal of home support in Singapore, but feels that Red Bull should have been closer to Mercedes.
Sep 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Singapore GP winner admits that he had worries about the reliability of his car following Nico Rosberg’s retirement.
Sep 21, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT
J.R. Fitzpatrick won last night’s season finale, but Dumoulin’s ninth-place finish enables him to claim the championship in Canada’s top stock car series.
Sep 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
14th to sixth in the final stages of the race caps off a great race for Jean-Eric Vergne.
Sep 21, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
German driver misses out on fourth straight win at Marina Bay, but pulls a great result out of the bag to move back up to fifth in the drivers’ championship.
Sep 21, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT
The British driver has completed a great turnaround – a swing of 32 points in three races – to re-take the lead of the championship today.
Sep 21, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT
An electrical glitch sidelines Rosberg, but Hamilton is made to fight for his second victory in Singapore after a lengthy safety car period.
Sep 21, 2014, 8:35 AM EDT
Rosberg’s championship hopes take a huge hit before a lap has even been run in Singapore.
Sep 21, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT
All of the action from Singapore as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg go head-to-head under the lights of Marina Bay.
Sep 21, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Red Bull gives you a unique insight into what goes on at a race team’s factory in the aftermath of a grand prix weekend.
Sep 20, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT
A wild final restart opened the door for Gaughan to out-hustle Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon late on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
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