Halfway into the race there was no doubt about it. There really was was only one man in it on Saturday night, as Penske's Helio Castroneves came alive under the floodlights of the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway and dazzled his opposition into submission.
The Brazilian took the lead from Marco Andretti on lap 97 and then held it for the rest of the 228-lap race, finally crossing the finish line almost five seconds clear of the next-fastest man, reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"It's been great," said Castroneves, thanking his team for putting together a package that was unbeatable in a race dominated by tyre management. "We were not only able to manage our tires and manage our fuel, but it was the setup. We did our homework and thank god it paid off. Texas is awesome. I love this place."
And his record at Texas bears that out: he's won here four times now in 12 starts, his first visit to victory lane at TMS coming in 2004. It was the 28th IndyCar win for Castroneves, and his first on an oval since 2010 at Twin Ring Motegi. The win puts him into the sole lead of the IndyCar championship by 18 points over Marco Andretti, and marks the first time this year that Penske have won a race in a season that has seen seven different winners from eight races so far in 2013.
"Helio drove a flawless race," said team owner Roger Penske, who hailed this weekend's race as "a key victory in our season based on where we were in the standings.
"It probably was the best execution we've had in a long time," Penske admitted. "Helio now leads the points and that's critical as we are in this stretch of oval races. It will be a slugfest, but I like our position right now!"
It has been a different Penske driver, Will Power, who had led the field to the green flag after winning an emphatic pole position the previous day. He couldn't convert that to a race lead, however, and through turn turn 2 it as second-place man Marco Andretti who led to the lead and then kept it for the first 53 laps of the event.
Power only led for four laps all evening, and that was under a caution for Scott Dixon whose #9 Ganassi car rolled to a halt on lap 54 while Marco Andretti was on pit lane for fuel and tyres for the first time.
"I think it was one of the main shafts from the gears that seemed to break coming out of the pits on that last stop for us. We found the problem and tried to fix it," sighed Dixon. "The car was good though. We were maintaining good pace and I think by the time of the end of the race came along we would have been in a good position to contend."