Roger Penske isn’t mincing words when it comes to the task at hand for Helio Castroneves in Saturday night’s season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
”Well, Helio’s got to win the race, and it’s a longshot,” Penske said.
Castroneves trails IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon by 25 points going into the final race. The Brazilian had led the standings for 12 consecutive races before losing the lead to Dixon two weeks ago when his gearbox broke 10 laps into the second race at Houston.
In all, Castroneves led the points 14 of 18 races this season.
But he had a terrible weekend in Houston, where Castroneves had taken a 49-point lead over Dixon into the doubleheader. Then Dixon won the first race and Castroneves had a gearbox issue, and Dixon finished second in the second race when Castroneves had a catastrophic failure.
”We shot ourselves in the foot in Houston with the problem with the gearbox,” Penske said. ”He got a little wide with the 10th lap and the bottom broke the gearbox. To me, its reliability and that’s one of the ways you win championships. We were good right up until the last weekend, and then we fell on our face.”
If Castroneves doesn’t rally, it will be the sixth time Penske has come up short since Sam Hornish Jr.’s 2006 title.
Penske said he won’t hold it against Castroneves, who also came up short to Dixon in 2008 when Dixon beat him by 18 points even though Castroneves won the season finale.
”Helio’s done a great job all year and he can hold his head up high and he’s going to drive for us next year, we’ve got to move on,” Penske said.