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Power thwarts Dixon in second Houston race

Will Power clinched victory in the second of the Houston double-header events, frustrating Scott Dixon's hopes of back-to-back wins in a weekend of woe for Helio Castroneves.
Will Power clinched victory in the second race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader weekend, and while Power himself is no longer in the running for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship his success may still have important ramifications on who does get to walk away with this year's title.

Power's Penske team mate Helio Castroneves came into this weekend in the lead of the championship standings, but after a disastrous Saturday outing which saw him suffer costly gearbox issues his points lead over Scott Dixon had dwindled to almost nothing. That meant Sunday was time for some serious damage limitation work from the Brazilian.

To that end, Castroneves got an unexpected boost on Sunday - and it was thanks to the weather. Overnight storms had led to the washout of the morning's warm-up and qualifying sessions, leaving the grid lining up according to entrants points. That meant Castroneves had just lucked into pole position with Dixon joining him on the front row for the standing start, and there was every hope that with a moral booster like this Helio would be able to steady the ship and restore some of his championship lead.

The rain meant that the drivers had to be wary of damp patches lingering in parts of the 1.683-mile, 10-turn temporary street course, but on the plus side they were spared the hot, humid conditions that had roasted them for the first race on Saturday as they lined up for the start. As usual there was the initial aborted attempt to get the race underway, with Dario Franchitti stalling and Takuma Sato struggling and failing to get his car into the correct position further back.

Things were better the second time around, although an agonisingly long wait for the green light baited Marco Andretti into making a jump start which was swiftly penalised. Everyone got away cleanly with Castroneves maintaining his lead over championship rival Scott Dixon, while further back there were some early aggressive moves from Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay to make up positions while everyone was closely packed together.

The initial green flag stint only lasted three laps before the first full course caution, triggered by Simona de Silvestro hopping across the kerbs in turn 8; she just about made the corner but in doing so herded Graham Rahal into the tyre wall, also blocking the track for Tristan Vautier. De Silvestro was handed a drive-thru penalty for triggering the accident in the first place.

The race resumed single-file on lap 7 with Castroneves on point, but Dixon was yelling on the radio to tell his team that fluid was streaming out of the back of the race leader's car. It took a few minutes for the discharge from the #3 to become clear on the TV cameras but soon it was undeniable and race control were considering black flagging Castroneves when the situation emphatically resolved itself: Castroneves' gearbox housing failed catastrophically and the engine cut out at the start of lap 11. The Brazilian tried limping back to pit lane but the car didn't have it in it to make it round and finally died in turn 7 to trigger a new caution and signal disaster for his 2013 championship title hopes. The Penske crew got to work and rebuilt the car in record time, but Castroneves was down 36 laps by the time he was able to gingerly make his way back out onto the track.

That was a relief for Dixon whose car had by now been thoroughly soaked in oil, making traction all but impossible. It had allowed Castroneves' Penske team mate Will Power to get past the remaining traffic and take up residence on the tail end of the #9 for the restart, with Simon Pagenaud is third ahead of Justin Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, while the biggest mover at this stage was Luca Filippi who was up to 12th place from 23rd on the grid in the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport car.

Racing resumed on lap 16 with Dixon relieved to at last be rid of the troublesome oil spill of a car in front and basking in the clear air ahead as he pulled clear of Power by a second and a half. Less happy was Pagenaud, whose handling fell away precipitously allowing Ryan Hunter-Reay to make an easy pass; the #77 was soon so slow that Justin Wilson had to check up to avoid running into the back of the Frenchman and in the process got jumped for position by James Hinchcliffe.




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Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, races to victory Sunday October 6, 2013 during the Grand Prix of Houston IndyCar Race 2 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Perry Nelson for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, races to victory Sunday October 6, 2013 during the Grand Prix of Houston IndyCar Race 2 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Perry Nelson for Chevy Racing)
Will Power (right), driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, celebrates his victory with James Hinchcliffe, driver of the #27 GoDaddy Pink Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, Sunday October 6, 2013 during the Grand Prix of Houston IndyCar Race 2 in Houston, Texas. Hinchcliffe finished third. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon and Will Power celebrate after race 2 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston double-header on Sunday, October 6 2013. (Photo Credit: Brett Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, and his team perform the traditional kissing of the bricks after racing to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, drinks the traditional bottle of milk while celebrating his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, crosses the finish line as he races to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Will Power (left), driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, finishes second. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Andy Frame/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya is congratulated by his Penske team mate Helio Castroneves after clinching victory in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power on pit road during the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Dana Garrett for IndyCar Media)
Penske team mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power race side-by-wide during the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya crosses the line ahead of Penske team mate Will Power to win the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson resplendent in the Rolling Stones livery for the #25 Andretti Autosport Honda in pit lane on Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Friday May 22 2015. (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson resplendent in the Rolling Stones livery for the #25 Andretti Autosport Honda on track on Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Friday May 22 2015. (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Will Power, Mark Miles and Derrick Walker announce the addition of Boston to the 2016 IndyCar Series itinerary. (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe at IMS (Photo by: Mike Harding)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies third fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start on the outside of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pagenaud will be joined in the front row by by polestar Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest for the May 24 race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies second-fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start in the middle of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Power will be joined in the front row by pole sitter Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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