Helio Castroneves has been in this position before.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner entered the 2008 season finale chasing Scott Dixon, who had a 30-point lead.
Castroneves did everything he could do and despite starting last after his qualifying run was disallowed, he managed to win the race by .0033 of a second. The only problem? Dixon, a six-time race winner in ’08, was there with him at the finish – netting a runner-up result that garnered a second IndyCar title by 17 points over the Brazilian.
He’ll need a similar result and a little help to erase a 25-point deficit to Dixon in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway on .
“At this point I feel that I have nothing to lose, so there is no pressure to be honest,” said Castroneves, who led the standings after 12 of the previous 15 events. “You have to just go for it. We’re going to look for our best result, and try to replicate what we did in Texas and hopefully we’ll be successful.”
It’s the eighth consecutive season that the IZOD IndyCar Series championship has come down to the final race of the year
Castroneves had a 49-point lead over Dixon going into the Oct. 5-6 doubleheader in Houston. Gearbox issues in both races dropped Castroneves 25 points behind Dixon, who won Race 1 and was runner-up in Race 2.
Dixon, who will be seeking his third IZOD IndyCar Series championship, will have Alex Tagliani as his teammate while Dario Franchitti continues to recover in Indianapolis from injuries suffered in a last-lap crash at in Race 2 at Houston.
“Every year we compete we try to win the championship, and I think definitely over the last five or six years we’ve had a good shot sort of going into the last one each of those years,” Dixon said. “It’s a good situation for us to be in and one that we’ll dig deep and try and carry out, but obviously with the competition against Penske and Helio, a very accomplished team and a very accomplished driver, it’s not going to be easy at all.
“As typical of many IndyCar Series championships, I think it’s going to come down to the last lap, last corner scenario. For us, we just hope that we’re on the good receiving end.”
Did You Know? 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series Championship:
· Scott Dixon leads the IZOD IndyCar Series championship heading into the final race for the fourth time in his career. He also led in 2003 and 2008 when he won the title and in 2009 when he finished second to Dario Franchitti.
· Dixon leads Castroneves by 25 points. It is the only time he has led the standings this season and the first time that he’s led the championship since there was one race to go in 2009.
· There are two drivers eligible for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship: Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon.
· Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti were eliminated from contention at Houston.
· This is the eighth straight season that the IZOD IndyCar Series title will be decided in the season-ending race.
Drivers still mathematically eligible for championship: 2
Key Championship statistic: Since 2009, the driver who entered the final race with the points lead has failed to win the IZOD IndyCar Series title. The last point leader to win the title was Scott Dixon in 2008.
Largest 1-2 point differential since: 2011. With one race to go, the 2013 points battle (25 points separate first and second) is the largest that it’s been since the 2008 season when first and second place were separated by 30 points. The average point deficit with one to go since 2005 is 13.0 points.
Championship-eligible drivers at Auto Club Speedway: Helio Castroneves has nine starts at Auto Club Speedway with a best finish of fifth in 2002 and 2012. Scott Dixon has six starts at Auto Club Speedway with a best finish of second in 2003. He finished third in the 2012 race.
Championship-eligible drivers on ovals: Helio Castroneves has 16 oval wins (2001-Indianapolis; 2002-Phoenix, Indianapolis; 2003-Gateway, Nazareth; 2004-Texas 2; 2005-Richmond; 2006- Motegi, Texas, Michigan; 2008-Chicagoland; 2009-Indianapolis, Texas; 2010-Kentucky, Motegi; 2013-Texas). Four of Castroneves’ wins have come on a superspeedway. Scott Dixon has 18 oval wins (2001-Nazareth; 2003-Homestead, Pikes Peak, Richmond; 2006- Nashville; 2007- Nashville; 2008-Homestead, Indianapolis, Texas, Nashville, Kentucky; 2009-Kansas, Milwaukee, Richmond, Motegi; 2010-Kansas, Homestead; 2013-Pocono). Two of Dixon’s wins have come on a superspeedway – Indianapolis 2008 and Pocono 2013.