Simon Pagenaud still fancies himself a championship contender with three races remaining in the IZOD IndyCar Series season championship.
"I'm going into Houston thinking I can win the championship," Pagenaud told the IndyCar website. "We have a good car on street circuits so we're going to go for it in Houston."
The defending IndyCar rookie of the year is third in the standings -- 70 points behind leader Helio Castroneves heading into the doubleheader at Houston on Oct. 5-6.
A championship is still mathematically plausible, as a race winner can pick up 50 points for scoring a win. With bonus points available for pole positions, (one point), leading a lap (one point) and leading the most laps (two points), it's clear what Pagenaud must do to give himself a shot by the end of the season finale at Auto Club Speedway.
He's already started his assault too.
In the past three races, Pagenaud has advanced two positions in the standings and outscored Castroneves by 46 points and second-place Scott Dixon by 66 points. He thrives on street courses too, picking up wins at Baltimore on Sept. 1 and the Belle Isle street course on June 2, giving the Frenchman confidence that he could be a favorite in the next two races on the streets of Houston at Reliant Park on Oct. 5-6.
"I think we have a really hot car right now," Pagenaud said. "We just need to keep going. It's looking good. We're actually the team that has scored the most points the past three races, so it's interesting to be up here and for people to realize we've had a good season.
"Last year we were a lot more quiet -- we were consistent and always there, but this year we're just that much stronger."
Teams allowed to increase brake cooling for Houston
IndyCar officials will allow IZOD IndyCar Series teams to modify their cars for the Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston in order to increase brake cooling, according to an IndyCar news release.
A bulletin issued to teams on Sept. 12 allowed teams to trim the front end plate wicker (Dallara Part #IR12-04B023) to increase brake cooling. Teams can also modify front and rear brake ducts and brake duct backing plates to increase rotor and caliper cooling.
"Based on what we saw at Baltimore, where we saw the hottest temperatures of the year, and with hot temperatures expected again in Houston , we've decided to allow these changes to help teams improve cooling to the brakes, " said Derrick Walker, president of competition and operations, IndyCar.