FONTANA, Calif. – Helio Castroneves has been in this position before.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner entered the 2008 IZOD IndyCar Series 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 this weekend.
“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.”