Dixon wins at Houston, breathes down Castroneves’ neck

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After a dismal month of August, Scott Dixon had a polar opposite day today and won the Grand Prix of Houston-Race 1. Helio Castroneves on the other had by far his worst race weekend of the year–finishing in 18th.

“I hope they’re worried, man,” said Dixon. “It’s a 41-point turnaround today. And hopefully we can have another good race tomorrow. It would be nice to be in the lead going into Fontana.”

Dixon’s 4th win of the season chops Helio’s points lead down from 49 down to 8 heading into tomorrow’s final race of the weekend. Dixon and Will Power had the two best cars the whole day, and Dixon caught a lucky break his final pit stop as he was coming out of the pits and a full course yellow flew and allowed Dixon to keep his position. Power and Luca Filippi inherited 1st and 2nd as they were on a different strategy. Those two held the top 2 spots until lap 72 when the yellow flew for Takuma Sato stuffing it in the tire barrier. Dixon moved into the lead and survived two restarts to take home the win.

Simona de Silvestro had a career best finish of 2nd after starting in 5th place. De Silvestro moved forward early in the race, and ran steadily inside the top 5 for much of the race. She moved up to 2nd place when Power and Filippi had to pit. Dixon jumped away on the final restart and she held of a hard charge from 3rd place finisher Justin Wilson and at the same time she was closing in on Dixon as got as close as 1.5 seconds going into the final laps until a yellow for Mike Conway ended the action.

“Finally. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It seemed like a pretty good car the whole weekend. I qualified up there, and then the race went actually pretty good. I really have to thank everybody at KV Racing and also everybody from the Nuclear Clean Energy campaign for sticking with me.

The third horse in the championship Simon Pagenaud finished in 4th place and knocked his margin to Castroneves down to 50 points, keeping him in championship contention. Like de Silvestro, Pagenaud had a consistent day and finished in 4th place.

““It was a great day for us. The HP car is flying when everything is up to temperature, so we know that we’re not far off. We just need to understand how to make it work a little better on restarts because that’s where we struggled today. Once we figure that out, we’ll have a great shot at the win tomorrow.”

Castroneves slowed suddenly on lap 23 managed to nurse it back to pit road. The Team Penske crew diagnosed it as a bad gearbox and managed to replace it, but lost 9 laps in the process. Also, he had completed every lap of the season up until today. More importantly his comfortable, consistent points head has now been reduced to a scant 8 points.

Early in the race, the car was bottoming out in a couple of places, and then I just couldn’t shift. It was a hell of a job by the Shell and Pennzoil guys to figure out the problem and get me back on track. It’s tough, but it’s something that’s out of our control. I tried to earn as many points as I could and really just focus on making the car better so we can be ready for tomorrow. On the positive side, we still have the lead in the championship, and I think we will be in good shape for Sunday.

Pole sitter Sato unfortunately had bad luck with a flat tire at the beginning of the race and pitted under the yellow to change his tire. He never led a lap under green.

Finishing Order

  1. Scott Dixon
  2. Simona de Silvestro
  3. Justin Wilson
  4. Simon Pagenaud
  5. Josef Newgarden
  6. James Jakes
  7. Graham Rahal
  8. Sebastien Bourdais
  9. EJ Viso
  10. Luca Filippi
  11. Charlie Kimball
  12. Will Power
  13. Marco Andretti
  14. Sebastian Saavedra
  15. Dario Franchitti
  16. Mike Conway
  17. Takuma Sato
  18. Helio Castroneves
  19. Oriol Servia
  20. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  21. Tony Kanaan
  22. Tristan Vautier
  23. Ed Carpenter
  24. James Hinchcliffe

 

Top 10 in Standings

1Helio Castroneves513
2Scott Dixon505
3Simon Pagenaud463
4Marco Andretti447
5Ryan Hunter-Reay437
6Justin Wilson428
7Dario Franchitti403
8Will Power391
9James Hinchcliffe382
10Charlie Kimball382
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