Scott Dixon took advantage of a disastrous weekend by Helio Castroneves in Houston, vaulting from a 49 point deficit to a 25 point lead heading into the final race of the season at Auto Club Speedway.
Dixon, who won Race 1 on Saturday, led 29 of the 90 laps and finished second to Will Power in Race 2. Power, who led half the laps of Race 1 before fading to 12th late, took the lead from Dixon on a Lap 40 restart and never looked back. The win was the second win of the season for Power and the 20th of his career.
After finishing last in Race 1 after a crash at the starting line, James Hinchcliffe recovered nicely to finish third in Race 2, his first podium finish since his win at Iowa in June. Rounding out the top five were Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais.
Castroneves, who was riding a streak of 12 straight top ten finishes and had completed every lap of the 2013 season, was plagued by gearbox issues all weekend resulting in an 18th place finish in Race 1, ten laps down.
Things were looking up in Race 2 as Castroneves started on the pole due to rain washing out qualifying. Castroneves got out to a good start, leading the first ten laps; however, his gearbox failed on lap 11, resulting in a 23rd place finish.
"We've had great luck for most of the season. Now, in a weekend, everybody's dream has become an interesting scenario," said Castroneves.
The weekend ended in a scary incident that saw four-time champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti go airborne and into the catch fence on the final lap of Race 2. Franchitti was admitted into Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a spinal fracture, a fracture to the right ankle, and a concussion.
The injuries will not require surgery; however, he was kept overnight and his status for next weekend's season finale at Auto Club Speedway is uncertain. 13 people were also injured in the incident when debris flew into the grandstands.
The last time Dixon and Castroneves were battling for the championship in the final race of the season, Castroneves won the race with Dixon finishing second and winning the 2008 championship by 17 points.
While the 25 point lead for Dixon is the largest lead headed into the final race of the season since 2008, Castroneves should be optimist that the guy who was in second place headed into the final race has won the championship the past four seasons.
"The good news is we had a test there (Auto Club Speedway) and it was extremely good," said Castroneves. "It's going to be a heck of a race."