As the Verizon IndyCar Series roars into Canada for the final doubleheader of the season – the Honda Indy Toronto 2 in T.O. – Helio Castroneves enters Saturday’s 85-lap, 149.74-mile contest with a nine-point lead over teammate Will Power. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won last week at Iowa, is just 32 points behind.
There are 100 points available in the two combined races this weekend so the IndyCar points race can undergo another dramatic transformation on the slick and tight street course that invites contact like a hockey game.
Castroneves was the second fastest driver in Friday’s second practice session after running a lap of 1:00.0218 around the 11-turn, 1.75-mile temporary street course in a Chevrolet before he scraped the wall in Turn 8 to bring out the red flag 30 minutes into the session. Simon Pagenaud grabbed the top spot ahead Castroneves thanks to a lap time of 1:00.0084.
With just six races left in the 2014 season, Castroneves understands the importance of this weekend’s two races.
“Big-time important,” Castroneves said Friday at Toronto’s Exhibition Place during a break in practice. “You are talking about 100 points this weekend and we have to keep going. Hopefully we’ll keep in the right direction and keep moving. I feel we have a very good chance here to not only keep the points lead but extend it. Right now we are in the right direction.”
In six IndyCar Series starts at Toronto, Castroneves has just one podium result – finishing second to Scott Dixon in Race 2 of last year’s doubleheader. In four CART contests at this track, the Brazilian scored a best finish of 10th his rookie season in 1998 driving for Bettenhausen Motorsports.
Statistically this is not one of Castroneves’ better tracks. The results are slightly better for Power who drove to victory here in 2010 after finishing third in 2009, but what has followed in the last four races over three years has been abysmal for the driver from Toowoomba, Australia. Power finished 24th in 2011, 15th in 2012, 15th in Race 1 and 18th in Race 2 last year.
Power also scored a victory in the 2007 Champ Car Series race to go along with a seventh-place finish when he was a Champ Car rookie in 2006.
What makes this points race unique is how the dynamics change when teammates are fighting it out rather than a driver on a rival team. For instance, Power’s competition for the title in 2012 was Andretti Autosport’s Hunter-Reay and Castroneves fought it out with Scott Dixon of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing in 2013. It’s easy to build up a rivalry when drivers are with different teams but teammates have to work together.
“When you are on the race track you have a good idea to push each other as much as you can to be the one,” Castroneves said. “It’s a good problem to have at Team Penske but we have to make sure we don’t give any other team like Hunter-Reay’s an opportunity to make something happen in this points race. We want to have both guys battling because it’s more chance for the team to win a championship.”
Power has been the victim of some self-inflicted mistakes this season and after he got into the marbles late in last Saturday night’s race at Iowa, he finished 14th and fell out of the points lead. That is why he enters Saturday’s race second in the standings battling his teammate for the top spot.
“We have to sit in the debrief room looking at each other,” Power said. “I actually thought at some point in my time here because Penske is a great team at some point you are going to be fighting your teammate. You have to put your head down and focus on what you can control and get the most out of every session. That is all you can do and not think about anyone else.”
Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. Eastern Time.Helio Castroneves, IndyCar, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Toronto, Will Power