On Saturday, Castroneves’ Dallara/Chevrolet incurred a broken Gear Cluster issue that forced a lengthy pit stop to repair the Gear Cluster, Gear Control Unit and Steering Wheel. On Sunday, Castroneves was leading the race when he ran over a bump on the race course that broke the gearbox housing.
Team Penske was able to replace the rear of Castroneves car on Sunday but he finished next to last.
“I feel bad for Helio with the weekend that he had,” Dixon said. “You’ve seen most of the championship contenders have bad luck in the season and we as pretty consistent up to now. It’s still going to go down to the wire on the last turn of the last lap of the season. The Chevys will be strong on the big oval at Fontana. It’s going to be a fun race and we have a lot of work to do. We have to go into the mindset of trying to win the race.”
Dixon can clinch the title if he finishes fifth of better in the MAVTV 500 at Fontana no matter what Castroneves does.
James Hinchcliffe finished third one day after crashing out on the standing start of Saturday’s race.
“That’s the biggest debris field we have seen since that race in 2011,” Hinchcliffe said. “It was only a matter of time before somebody got it wrong in that corner.”
It was Power’s second win of the season. His first victory was at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 25.
“It was a bittersweet weekend with the issue we had yesterday,” team owner Roger Penske said. “Helio went wide on the 10th lap and with a heavy load of fuel he bounced it and it broke the gearbox away from the fuel tank. But the racing isn’t over; we know that. The racing has been up and down over the last several races. I think it was a great race. I saw the accident at the end and I hope Dario and the spectators are fine.
“We’ve been through this before. Our engine is right at the edge with 300 or 400 miles on it so we will probably take a grid penalty to add a fresh engine. We are going to go for it at Fontana.”
As for Castroneves’ misfortune Castroneves bad luck came unexpectedly.
“It doesn’t make sense; does it,” Penske said. “Helio has done a great job and it’s a disappointment. It’s bittersweet with Will winning the race. To me, the cars had speed but we didn’t execute with the 3 car (Castroneves).”
The day began as if Castroneves would be the recipient of good luck. A morning rainstorm cancelled qualifications and Castroneves earned the pole when the field was based on the point standings. He started alongside Dixon who wasn’t pleased with IndyCar’s decision to base the starting lineup on points.
“We went through the pole award and everything for this morning, and then I don’t know – I thought by the end of this morning, I thought they were probably going to have us starting last or something,” Dixon said. “It was kind of a big confusion between what an event is, what a race is, when you take the points from the start of the weekend or if you take it in the middle, whatever.
“So, yeah, it was a little confusing this morning, and we started off the front row, which was a good starting spot. Preferably, we should have started from yesterday’s qualifying. That would have been better for us.”
Castroneves was leading the race for the first 10 laps before he hit the bump that broke the gearbox. He stopped on the track on lap 12 that brought out the yellow flag.
Visibly despondent, Castroneves went back to the team’s transporter while his Team Penske crew hurriedly put a new gearbox onto the car. He returned to the race on lap 47 after the team replaced the gearbox, rear suspension and rear driveline in the paddock. By returning to action, he earned on extra point because Tony Kanaan crashed on lap 34 and finished last. The additional point could be important in determining the season championship.
“We’ve had great luck for most of the season,” Castroneves said. “Now in a weekend, everybody’s dream has become an interesting scenario. I will tell you one thing: This team is a testament to never giving up, and I have faith in these guys that they are going to do everything they can to make it happen in Fontana. Unfortunately, the race is still going on. We can’t really understand what happened, but we had a good test for Fontana. Things happen for a reason.
“I’ll take every advantage I can get. I know Ganassi will work really hard. At the end of the day, it’s frustrating and disappointing. No one wanted this to happen, especially the Shell Pennzoil boys and Team Penske. It hurts. It really hurts.”