IndyCar is down to its last two weekends of the 2013 season. The remaining two weekends will have three races at two different venues. The first weekend in October will see the series return to Reliant Park in downtown Houston, Texas for the first time since running there under the ChampCar banner back in 2007. The Houston weekend will feature the last of the three doubleheader weekends that have proven to be exciting. Two weeks after the doubleheader in Houston, the 2013 IndyCar season will wrap up for the second year in a row under the lights at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for the MavTV 500.
Two drivers are seem to be in the running for the championship. The first one is current points leader Helio Castroneves. Despite having only one win so far this season (Texas), Helio has been the most consistent finisher this season finishing outside the top ten only once this season which happened at Sao Paulo. Despite a pretty solid IndyCar career that includes twenty eight career wins (including three Indianapolis 500’s), Helio has yet to claim that elusive series title. Helio’s best season points finish has been second which has happened twice in 2002 and 2008. Helio holds the record for most wins and starts by a driver who has never won a IndyCar title.
The next title contender is two time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. Scott is currently second in the points standings forty nine points behind Castroneves. Dixon has gotten into title contention by having a strong summer this season that included three consecutive victories at Pocono and the doubleheader at Exhibition Place in Toronto. Dixon was in reach of the points lead until some bad luck that has hurt him the past couple of races. At Sonoma, Dixon was in postion to win the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma until a controversial drive through penalty from hitting a crew member from Will Power’s team costed Dixon from a chance to win to finishing fifteenth. At the next race in the Grand Prix of Baltimore, Dixon was snake bitten again when Will Power moved over on a double file restart and apparently did not see Dixon and chopped him off sending him into the wall. The wreck would put Dixon out of the running and a nineteenth place position.
Despite the setbacks in the previous two races for the driver they call “The Iceman”, Dixon is still well in contention and could have a chance at catching Helio if he can have a good doubleheader weekend at Houston.
Most would say Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon are the only two drivers that have a legitimate chance at this years IndyCar championship. But I believe the driver currently running third in the points standings also has a pretty good shot at the IndyCar title.
That drivers name of course is Simon Pagenaud.
I believe with the doubleheader at Houston coming up, Simon Pagenaud has a golden opportunity to throw his name into the battle for the Astor Cup (IndyCar title trophy). Unlike Dixon and Castroneves, Pagenaud has driven at Reliant Park in downtown Houston on two occasions driving a Atlantics car in 2006 and the following year in a DP01 ChampCar in 2007, Pagenaud finished second and fifth respectively.
Another reason I believe Pagenaud is a title contender is been his run on the road and street circuits. So far this season, Pagenaud has scored two victories at the second doubleheader race at Belle Isle and the most recent race at Baltimore. Pagenaud also would get a podium on the road course at Mid Ohio.
Despite the last race of the season being on a oval at Fontana, I still believe Pagenaud with a good showing at Houston will still be in the title hunt when the series arrives for the season finale. Ovals haven’t been Pagenaud’s strength but has shown some improvement. Pagenaud has scored three top ten finishes on ovals this season including eighth at the Indianapolis 500 and sixth at Pocono. Why do I mention those two? It’s because Fontana is a superspeedway oval like Indianapolis and Pocono. Pagenaud has shown he can get a solid finishes on ovals.
One last reason I believe Pagenaud is a title contender is that Helio and Dixon’s prior races at Fontana has shown some solid finishes, but no wins on the two mile oval. Helio’s best finish at Fontana has been fifth on two occasions (2002 & 2012). Dixon has shown slightly better results at Fontana with a best finish of second back in 2003 and got a third place finish last year.
So with no previous wins at Fontana between the top two in the points standings. Simon Pagenaud, with a really good showing at the Houston doubleheader weekend, should be taken seriously as a title contender for the 2013 IndyCar season.
Should be a interesting final three races of the season and I cannot wait to see how it all turns out.