HOUSTON – Scott Dixon knew if he was going to get back into the IZOD IndyCar Series championship hunt he was going to need a pair of race victories this weekend for himself and bad luck to hit points leader Helio Castroneves.
Dixon got both on Saturday in the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston – the first race of a doubleheader at Houston’s Reliant Park.
Dixon’s fourth win of the season and the 33rd of his career combined with a miserable race by Castroneves that included gearbox issues and several spins that accumulated to a 20th-place finish has brought Dixon from 49 points behind to just eight points out of the lead entering Sunday’s second race.
“It put us in a great situation,” Dixon said. “Sunday is a new day and it could go horribly wrong but it would be ideal for us to go into the final race at Fontana in the points lead. It’s never going to be easy. Helio is a very accomplished driver with the one of the best teams in the business and are going to fight it down to the wire.
“We have to try and do what we can. We came from huge deficits this year and some hokey situations that we have been involved in to try to come back. There is nothing more we can do than to try to do our best. Fingers crossed it goes smoothly.”
Dixon’s smooth win came on a bumpy weekend at Reliant Park in Houston, Texas, as track issues plagued this event wiping out Friday’s Fast Six qualifications and going to an abbreviated format with two groups on the track for 15 minutes at a time for a 30-minute qualification session.
Takuma Sato won the pole and Team Penske’s Will Power qualified second but Dixon’s Dallara/Honda lineup up third and that put him in great positions for Saturday’s win.
The same format will be used with Sunday morning qualifications followed by a race including another standing start after Saturday’s race included a crash during the standing start when James Hinchcliffe’s Dallara/Chevrolet stalled and Ed Carpenter ran into the side of Hinchcliffe’s car, knocking both out of the contest.
Dixon shared the spotlight with second-place finisher Simona De Silvestro. It was the highest finish by a female driver in an IndyCar Series race since Danica Patrick finished second in the 2010 season-finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Patrick is the only female IndyCar winner when she drove to the win at Twin Ring Motegi in April 2008.
“It’s great to have this result on a physical street course because a lot of people always think we can’t hang with the boys on a tough track,” De Silvestro said. “I’m really happy to have shown that. This finish is great. We’ve worked hard with KV and to finally get a result like this is very satisfying.
“It was a hot race but I train a lot and have some great trainers in Indianapolis. They prepare me well. But I stayed as calm as I could in the race car. It was tough but I managed it as well as I could. We’re looking pretty good because we have a good pace but I think we are looking OK for Sunday.”