The complexion of the IndyCar Series season championship changed almost instantly on Saturday afternoon as Scott Dixon won the first race of the Grand Prix of Houston while his championship rival Helio Castroneves finished 18th amidst gearbox issues.
Castroneves entered Saturday's race with a 49-point lead over Dixon with three races remaining in the season but lost nearly all of that due to his mechanical issues and a slow pit stop by his teammates with the No. 12 team. Will Power had been leading late in the race but gave up the lead to Dixon with 17 laps to go.
Dixon needed both a perfect day and some unintended help from his rivals and got both on a warm day in Houston and now trails Castroneves by only eight points with two races left.
"I've been in Helio's position before where you've got to try and keep it simple and get the points that you need," Dixon said. "But it's very hard to dial it a back and not get caught up in mistakes or problems with the car."
With only one win, earlier this season at Texas, Castroneves had taken control of the championship through finesse. He had been the only driver to complete all 2,003 laps entering the face but finished race No. 1 at Houston 10 laps off the pace.
The race was somewhat marred by a disappointing start as James Hinchcliffe never got rolling at the start of the race -- in the second standing start in IZOD IndyCar Series history.
Hinchcliffe was lined up on the third row, forcing car to dart and dash around his prone vehicle. Ed Carpenter was unable to avoid Hinchcliffe and heavily damaged both cars and brought out the first caution of the day.
"Man, I'm furious. I know what happened, I don't want to talk about what happened," Hinchcliffe said in a television interview. "I'm mad. I'm out of the race. I don't want to get into it here. We've had troubles all weekend with something electrical on the car. We finally got it sorted for qualifying. We were ready, it was go time, and we didn't go.
"We'll regroup. We'll get 'em tomorrow. I'll calm down."
Carpenter just insisted that he had nowhere to go and was the victim of bad circumstances.
"I was following the cars in front of me, some dust was flying, one of the cars I was following dodged to one side and I tried to dodge to the inside but I clipped Hinch's car," Carpenter said. "It was tough to see with the other cars right in front of me -- just a tough break."
Race No. 2 will kick off at 1 p.m. ET Oct. 6 on NBC Sports Network. The complete results of race No. 1 can be found below.
- Scott Dixon
- Simona De Silvestro
- Justin Wilson
- Simon Pagenaud
- Josef Newgarden
- James Jakes
- Graham Rahal
- Sebastien Bourdais
- E.J. Viso
- Luca Filippi
- Charlie Kimball
- Will Power
- Marco Andretti
- Sebastian Saavedra
- Dario Franchitti
- Mike Conway
- Takuma Sato
- Helio Castroneves
- Oriol Servia
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Tony Kanaan
- Tristan Vautier
- Ed Carpenter
- James Hinchcliffe