Hinchcliffe With Podium Finish At Houston

By Amy Konrath

(HOUSTON, TX) – Scott Dixon took advantage of Helio Castroneves’ discouraging race weekend to slide into the driver’s seat of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship chase.

Dixon won Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston on Oct. 5 and was runner-up to Will Power in Race 2 to take a 25-point lead heading over Castroneves into the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships on Oct. 19 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval in Fontana, Calif.

It will mark the eighth consecutive year that the series title will be decided in the finale.

Power overtook Dixon’s No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car in Turn 3 of a Lap 40 restart and held on for his second victory of the season (20th of his Indy car career) as the yellow flag flew behind them on the final lap of the 90-lap race for heavy contact involving the cars of Dario Franchitti, Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso.

Franchitti, a four-time series champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was admitted awake and alert to Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Centre in Houston for a concussion, spinal fracture that will not require surgery and a fracture to the right ankle.  He will be kept overnight. Sato and Viso were evaluated at the scene and released.

"On the last lap I caught the marbles and brushed the wall and lost momentum," said Sato, the pole sitter for Race 1 in the No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing. "A couple cars passed me as I was offline and in Turn 5. I got very loose and Dario and I came together."

Dixon started next to Castroneves on Row 1 for the standing start as the starting grid was set by entrant points after a rainstorm washed out the morning 30-minute qualifying session.

"Another win would have been nice," Dixon said, "but a decent weekend and a good turnaround for us in terms of points. It’s still going to be a tough weekend at Fontana. Twenty-five points, it can go anybody’s way."

Castroneves entered the third doubleheader of the season with a 49-point advantage. After qualifying a season-low 21st and finishing 18th in Race 1, combined with Dixon’s victory, Castroneves’ lead was sliced to eight. A shifter issue early in Race 1 required repairs on pit lane that dropped Castroneves nine laps down. In Race 2, a broken gearbox housing left Castroneves’ No. 3 entry stranded in Turn 6 of the 1.634-mile, 10-turn circuit.

The crew returned the car to its temporary garage area to replace the gearbox and rear suspension, and Castroneves re-joined the race on Lap 47 (36 laps down to race leader Power) and finished 23rd.

"We’ve had great luck for most of the season. Now, in a weekend, everybody’s dream has become an interesting scenario," said Castroneves, who had a streak of 12 consecutive top-10 finishes end in Race 1. "I will tell you one thing, this team is a testament to never giving up and I have faith in these guys that they are going to do everything they can to make it happen in Fontana."

Castroneves was among 23 drivers who tested at the venue Sept. 24 in preparation for the 200-lap twilight race.

"The good news is we had a test there and it was extremely good," Castroneves continued. "It’s going to be a heck of a race."

James Hinchcliffe finished third for his first podium since Iowa in June and Justin Wilson followed up on his fourth podium of the season with a fourth-place finish.

"First and foremost, I hope everyone is OK,” Hinchcliffe said of the collision on the second last lap. “That looked really bad. Nothing else matters. We just want everyone to walk out of here fine.”

He continued, “From our point of view, happy to be back on the podium. It’s been a rough stretch for us since Iowa. It’s nice to have a good drive rewarded, especially after what happened yesterday. It’s cool to get the pink car on the podium, too. It’s a one-off deal with the National Breast Cancer Foundation. It’s a great cause.”

Sebastien Bourdais advanced from the 13th starting position to finish fifth. Oriol Servia gained the most positions, climbing from 21st to finish seventh in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car.

TOP TEN FINISH

  • 1. (9) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
  • 2. (2) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
  • 3. (8) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
  • 4. (6) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
  • 5. (13) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
  • 6. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
  • 7. (21) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
  • 8. (10) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
  • 9. (16) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
  • 10. (17) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running

UNOFFICIAL TOP 10 IN IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POINTS (after 18 of 19 races):

1.

Scott Dixon

546

2.

Helio Castroneves

521

3.

Simon Pagenaud

491

4.

Justin Wilson

460

5.

Marco Andretti

457

6.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

446

7.

Will Power

444

8.

Dario Franchitti

418

9.

James Hinchcliffe

417

10.

Charlie Kimball

406

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian writes for and provides imagery to Square Media Group as well as accepting freelance photographic assignments. In addition, he has contributed to media organizations, sporting groups, and individuals across North America including the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Chatham-Kent Sports Network, the Golf Association of Michigan, League 1 Ontario, as well as numerous colleges and universities in Canada and the United States. Email Ian Shalapata
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