INDIANAPOLIS — With 20 drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series title, Helio Castroneves knows there is still a lot of racing left in the season and a lot of points on the table.
The Team Penske driver holds a 31-point lead over Scott Dixon and has a 65-point cushion over Ryan Hunter-Reay, the reigning series champion, entering the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25.
Castroneves says his mindset heading into the final five races is the same one he’s had since the start of the season: Take what you can get.
“(At Mid-Ohio) we took the necessary risk, not the unnecessary risk and I was proud of myself to judge that,” said Castroneves, who finished sixth in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, one spot ahead of Dixon and one position behind Hunter-Reay. “When I saw Scott was behind me and that Hunter-Reay was in front of me it was like ‘OK, boys. If they try to do something silly it will benefit me.’ They’re experienced enough though to do the same.”
The result meant Castroneves recorded his 10th consecutive top-10 finish and remains the only driver to complete every race lap. More importantly, he didn’t lose much ground to his championship rivals.
“It felt like a win with the expectations going into that race, what happened in the past, not having any yellows,” said Castroneves, who has been involved in the title chase four of the past five years at this point of the season but never in first place. “We were able to put ourselves in that position and stay ahead of our main competitors in the championship. Hey, I’ll take it. We have to keep doing what we’re doing; it’s been working.”
Castroneves turns his focus on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course in Sonoma, Calif., where he’s posted five top-10 finishes (including a 2008 victory that broke a 30-race winless streak).
He’s qualified in the top five in each of the eight races at the track, and a Team Penske car has won four of the past five races (Ryan Briscoe in 2012, Will Power in 2011 and ’10 and Castroneves in ’08).
“We know what we’ve achieved in the past,” said Castroneves, who is recovering from a hard crash on Aug. 9 during a stock car Brasil practice on a street course in his native Brazil. “I sent notes to my engineer the morning after Mid-Ohio about where we’re strong and the tires are the same. Hopefully, it will benefit us at Sonoma.”