Dixon closes points gap with win at Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston

IndyCar News/Releases, INDYCAR PR — By on October 5, 2013 8:08 pm
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[Source: IndyCar press release]

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DIXON CLOSES POINTS GAP WITH WIN AT SHELL AND PENNZOIL GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON

HOUSTON (Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013) — Scott Dixon won for the fourth time – the third on a street circuit – in Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston to slice Helio Castroneves’ championship points lead from 49 to eight heading into the penultimate race of the IZOD IndyCar Series season.

The second 90-lap race on the 1.683-mile, 10-turn course is at 1 p.m. (ET) Oct. 6. The final race Oct. 19 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval in Fontana, Calif., will mark the eighth consecutive year that the series title has been decided in the finale.

Castroneves started a season-low 21st and finished 18th in the No. 3 Shell Pennzoil Team Penske car. He developed a shifter issue early in the race and dropped nine laps behind during repairs on pit lane. He had been the only driver to complete all 2,003 laps entering the race.

Dixon has an average finish of 2.2 through five of the six races that constitute doubleheaders and 7.1 on street circuits. He can earn another SONAX Perfect Finish Award, adding $50,000 to the $100,000 he earned by sweeping the races at Exhibition Place in Toronto in July, with a victory in Race 2. Dixon’s next victory will tie Al Unser Jr. for sixth on the all-time Indy car list with 34.

Dixon, who started third, pitted on Lap 64 just before a full-course caution for the stopped car of Oriol Servia. Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car regained the point on the exchange, but he had to pit for the final time on Lap 73, which put Dixon back at the front of the field for the duration. He won under caution.

Simona De Silvestro finished a career-high second and Justin Wilson earned his fourth podium finish of the season.

POST-RACE NOTES:

  • Scott Dixon earned his fourth victory of the season. His previous wins came in succession in July at Pocono and sweeping the double-header at Toronto.
  • Scott Dixon earned his 33rd career Indy car victory, seventh on the all-time list. Al Unser Jr. is sixth with 34.
  • Scott Dixon is eligible for the SONAX Perfect Finish Award and a $50,000 bonus if he wins Sunday to sweep the double-header. Dixon earned that award and a $100,000 bonus for sweeping the Toronto double-header since no driver won both races at the first double-header of the season at Detroit.
  • Scott Dixon made his first career start at Reliant Park today. He finished 18th in his only start on the downtown Houston street circuit in 2001.
  • Simona de Silvestro finished a career-best second, her first IZOD IndyCar Series podium result. Her previous best was fourth in 2011 on the street circuit in St. Petersburg.
  • Justin Wilson placed third, his fourth podium finish this season.
  • This is Justin Wilson’s career-best finish at Reliant Park. His previous best in two starts was fifth in 2006.
  • Simon Pagenaud placed fourth, his fifth top-five finish this season. Pagenaud has finished in the top five at the last four races.
  • Josef Newgarden placed fifth, his fourth top-five finish this season.
  • Helio Castroneves finished 18th, his worst result of the season. His previous low was 13th at Sao Paulo.
  • Rookie Luca Filippi finished 10th, his first top-10 result in three IZOD IndyCar Series starts this season. His previous best was 16th in his series debut at Mid-Ohio.
  • Helio Castroneves finished 10 laps behind winner Scott Dixon, the first time this season he has not finished on the lead lap. Castroneves was the only driver who had completed all 2,003 laps of competition this season entering this event.

QUOTEBOARD:

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet, 24th): “It’s just one of those things, man. The bad news is I don’t get to just leave and put this one behind me. The good news we get the chance to do it again tomorrow.” (About where he places his frustration): “It’s all over the place. I’m just frustrated. It’s an unfortunate situation. I feel bad for the guys, for sure. We’ve had troubles all weekend with something electrical on the car, and then we finally got it sorted for qualifying, did what I think was a pretty good job in qualifying to get the GoDaddy car up there. We were ready, it was go time, and then we didn’t go. We’ll regroup. We’ll get it tomorrow. I’ll calm down, but it’s just tough, man. It’s tough to come all this way, work this hard, especially with the kind of weekend that we’ve all had here in the series, and to not be able to go and put on a show for the fans here, GoDaddy, and for the finish my guys deserved. We’re just really disappointed with our run today. You hate coming all this way and getting everyone working as hard as they have with the trouble that we have had with the track and everything, but we were about ready to put on a good race, and the GoDaddy PINK car was good starting in the third row. These guys (Andretti Autosport) are always good in the pits and good on strategy, and I was really confident. I was looking forward to my first standing start because we didn’t make the one in Toronto. It’s just tough. It’s a tricky thing to do, but I guess the good news is that we have the chance to do it all again tomorrow. I really wish we had been able to run, though; I was for sure looking forward to it. Thanks to Andretti Autosport and the fans who are sitting out here in this ridiculous heat and sticking by us all weekend.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, 23rd): “Vautier got right in front of me at the start. Then he made a last second move to miss Hinch. I tried, too, but clipped him. The ECR/Fuzzy’s guys did a super job to replace the whole right corner of the car. They have been flat out since early last week with Fontana test, the trailer fire and this incident. We thought we might get out to gain a few points but, of course, Kanaan and Vautier got back out just in front of us. It was one of those days. We have Sunday now to get better.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet, 13th): “The race was there, but it takes too long to get there. I have to sneak up on it and lose too much time coming up on tires. I lose my strength in the restarts because I don’t have predictability. The car doesn’t tell me what the limit is and it could potentially stick. It’s very unpredictable, which makes for a long 90 laps, so hopefully we can find predictability tomorrow for the No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, winner): (About getting maximum points): “It’s fun to race that way. I’ve been in Helio’s position before where you’ve got to try and keep it simple and get the points that you need. But it’s very hard to dial it a back and not get caught up in mistakes or problems with the car.” (About things finally going his way): “Yeah, but you’re always kind of not sure, too, of who’s split strategies. So as soon as we come and catch the pace car, I’m like: ‘OK, the 3 car is in front of me. Do they need to pit?’ And they’re like, ‘Yes they need to pit.’ And the pits are open, and only one of them came in. And here we go: We really have to race for it. But luckily there was another caution, and they didn’t have enough fuel, and we were able to stretch them at the end. It’s a fantastic car. Very similar to Toronto, where you could just set up and maintain pace and then put the gas down when you needed to.” (About the championship): “I hope they’re worried, man. 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. We know the Chevys are strong. Honda is definitely strong at the 500 mile. To have a little bit of buffer would be really nice.”

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet, second): (About her first podium): “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. Finally we have our podium. Hopefully tomorrow we can even better it.” (About physical demands of the doubleheaders): “I think it’s going to be difficult, to be honest, but it’s the same for everybody. We just need to have a good meal tonight and rehydrate. But it’s definitely tough because you don’t have that much time to relax. The straightaways are really bumpy, so you really have to be on top of the car every time. I think to finish P2, I think you want to do it again anytime.”

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, third): “It was not a bad day today. The Boy Scouts of America car was great. We tried to move up at the start, but about 15 laps in, I felt the tire going down, and we had to come in a bit early. We knew the fuel window was going to be tight, but we just had to go for it. We had to conserve fuel a little bit, but I was just pushing the whole way. Hopefully we can be a little stronger in qualifying and have no problems and have a better chance to win one of these.”

E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA Citgo Chevrolet, ninth): “Well, definitely a very difficult race; very physical, very demanding for everyone in the crew. Strategy was crucial, and I think it’s one of the things we got right. Even if we hadn’t had the right strategy, we unfortunately got messed up by a yellow flag where they closed the pits just as we were on our way in (to pit). We needed to make up some spots after that spot, and we did – back up to ninth. I’m grateful for the team. I had a very competitive car even when the Hondas are fast this weekend. I think we still had a good chance of finishing in the top three or four.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, 18th): “I am starting with the good news is that we are still leading (championship), and I didn’t know that. Second, we did have a much better car in the start of the race than in qualifying, and we are still leading. The team did a hell of a job, and I guess it’s just more excitement for you guys. Obviously, that was a tough finish for the Shell Pennzoil team. 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. We need to have a good qualifying and bounce back with a strong race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 12th): “It was very disappointing with not being able to keep the lead in the second half of the race. The Verizon Team Penske Chevy ran well, and we were in a decent position. Obviously, that yellow flag was good for Dixon in the points. It ruined our day and a few other people’s, as well. We know we have a strong car here in Houston, and we will give it a go in tomorrow’s second race and hope for a better finish.”

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 T-Mobile Honda, 15th): “We were on a good strategy, and we were coming through the field. Then I tried to pass the No. 78 (Simona De Silvestro), and the brakes locked going into the corner. I braked a bit harder to avoid hitting her and spun. Then I got it going but grabbed the wrong paddle and stalled it. I grabbed the gear lever instead of the clutch because the steering wheel was spinning at the time. That was it, really. From then on, we lost a lap and tried waiting for the car to get going again. We waited for the safety team to get the car going and then the only guy that was on my lap was Saavedra, and I was trying to get to him, but Conway spun me in Turn 4. We managed to keep it going that time. That was it, really. Tough day, as I thought the T-Mobile car was quick. We just never really had a chance to show it from our starting position there with the engine penalty. It was great for Scott today, for him to win the race and put him back in the fight. So that’s something to be happy for, but really tough day.”

TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Angie’s List Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 22nd): “We just got in trouble at the start when I had nowhere to go after Hinchcliffe’s car stalled on the standing start. I was trying to avoid him and hit the wall, doing quite a bit of damage to our car. The No. 55 team worked so hard to get our car back out on the track and gain some data for tomorrow so that we have a shot at doing well in quals for Race 2. This has been a really tough day for us in the Angie’s List car, but I know that the team will help put me in the best possible position for a second shot at things tomorrow.”

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet, 14th): “It was a pretty disappointing finish for the No. 6 TRUECar because we had a very competitive car. We had a great start battling our way to the front for a while. Unfortunately, an issue on a pit stop where we couldn’t get the hose out of the way, and I clipped it enough to get penalized. So we had to come in and do a drive-through, causing us to go down a lap. To lose a lap around a place like this or anywhere, you’re just pretty much out of the game. Seeing where Rahal and Jakes finished, we were stronger than them, looking for a top-10. This was unfortunate, but racing is racing, so we will be back again tomorrow.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda, fourth): “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. We’re still in it for the championship and are only 50 points out now. The past four races have been really interesting, and today was a good points day for us. I’m really excited for tomorrow now.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda, 11th): “It was another fighting run for the No. 83 car. I don’t think anyone can say that the NovoLog FlexPen crew doesn’t dig deep and fight hard, so, a lot of credit to them. They gave me the information I needed to overcome the problems we had on the starts. To come back and end up nearly in the top 10 like we did, I’m pretty happy with that. We have a pretty fast race car, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s race.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet, eighth): “Well, we should be happy because we started 14th and finished eighth in the No. 7 McAfee Dragon Racing car. We had a pretty fast car, running the third-fastest lap of the race. We were making a lot of passes and were able to run our way to the front in all the way to fourth. Unfortunately, on one of the yellows the pits were closed for no reason, just a car stuck on track. No danger or anything. It hurt positions one, two and three, and Dixon had pitted, so that just killed our race. I know it’s a tough business, but we just need more consistency. So it was a disappointing finish, but we have a fast car. Tomorrow we will have another shot at it and see what we can get.”

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda, 10th): “I think we had a great race. We had a great strategy and we were fast, but it was just unlucky that the yellow came at the wrong moment. I think we did the right thing. We were pushing hard and we were driving faster than most of the teams out there, so I believe it was a good call to stay out. I think we did everything right, but it was just bad luck. The car was great to drive. Day by day, we are improving. The team and I work well together, and we continue to make steps in the right direction, which is the most difficult thing in any sport. I think we have to be proud about it.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet, 20th): “The dash just said low pressure, so something in the gear shifting mechanism lost pressure. I think we might have melted a line back there somehow. I don’t know how many races this season we’re sitting here watching the end of the race instead of being in it. We had a good day going on, and the guys worked hard. I was hanging on to a car I’m not really comfortable with at the moment. We’re going to make some changes for tomorrow, but I think we had a top-five car. The track is brutal. The heat isn’t an issue, but the bumps are just brutal and playing havoc on our setup right now.”

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet, 19th): “It was tough out there today, but that’s what we expected. Our car was so great, and I really thought we were going to be able to give the National Guard guys a good race. Baltimore was awesome for us, and when we got here, I had a great pace. I was just waiting for our last stop. I don’t know what happened. It looked like we lost fuel pressure, but we’ll have to see.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 blu eCigs Honda, seventh): “The blu eCigs guys did a great job making the right decisions in the race. Neil (Fife, race engineer), Wayne (Gross, assistant engineer) and everybody who made the tweaks to this thing went in the right direction. To go from 24th to seventh is always a good day; you can’t complain. I think we could have, and should have, had James (Jakes) and (Josef) Newgarden there at the end but ran out of time. There was some close racing there, so I just figured I would be a little bit smarter and lift off. Overall, I thought it was a good day. If we can qualify a little more toward the front tomorrow, I feel really good about our chances in Race 2. If we can qualify in the front, we can definitely run up there.”

JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda, sixth): “We worked our way up after starting ninth. It was really good; we had it going in the beginning. The car was working well and the tire compound choice seemed to be working out, which we kind of knew it would after the first few laps because those on reds were falling off a little bit. We managed to pick a lot of people off, the car was working well but then we had a miscommunication in the pits and did an extra pit stop than we needed to. We had to work our way up from there. It’s a shame because I think without that we could have been on the podium. We will see what tomorrow brings. Generally we made some improvements to the car and I think we can still improve it slightly for the second race. We will work overnight and obviously we have another qualifying Sunday before the race. I feel okay physically. Actually, the first part of the race went pretty quick. When the car is working well and you are overtaking people, it tends to. I radioed in and was told there were 43 laps gone already and I was quite surprised. Tomorrow is supposed to be a lot cooler so that will be nice. It’s just important to get some points right now. Obviously not finishing the last two races has been a killer for us. Unfortunately where we are in the championship doesn’t really represent how competitive we’ve been. And the priority is getting the car solidly in the Leaders Circle range for the team.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, fifth): “I think I need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep tonight before tomorrow. I thought Baltimore was a hard race – this is twice as hard .It’s just so physical, very demanding track. It’s just very hard to pass and difficult on drivers. You have to have a lot of mental concentration, but it’s really hard to stay concentrated when you get fatigued out there. It was a race of attrition for us, but a great job for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and it’s great to have Strike on board with us this weekend doing so well and getting a nice top-five. We started behind the 8-ball today, so it was really important to get a good result. I think we’re back on track now, so hopefully we can qualify well tomorrow and have a better race. ” (About chrome livery of Strike car): “It was the sexiest race car in Houston – it’s just got to be. The Strike people are awesome, and we’re so happy to have them onboard. They’re just a great group and really supportive. They love this event, and they really loved the car, too. It was really important to us to make a good-looking car, and I think we succeeded. I’ve gotten nothing but compliments for it.” (About race Sunday): “It’s going to be so hard again tomorrow. I think these double-headers haven’t been as bad as people thought they would be. I was a little concerned at the beginning of the year with how they were going to be, but having done a couple already, it’s very feasible. The drivers will be fine. This is what we train for, but I’m definitely going to have to recover and drink a lot of water to rehydrate for tomorrow.”

MIKE HULL (Managing director, Target Chip Ganassi Racing): “We didn’t dominate the race. We had to race hard today with Will Power all day long, and it’s not an easy task. Someone asked me the other day, what was the greatest win that we ever had at Chip Ganassi Racing, and I said the next one. Today certainly fits that.”

 

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