IndyCar's 'final four' of the season begins at Mid-Ohio

IndyCar's 'final four' of the season begins at Mid-Ohio

<p>Helio Castroneves from Team Penske currently holds a 13-point lead over second-place and teammate Will Power. Castroneves has one victory this season, which came in the second race of the weekend doubleheader at Detroit in June. The week prior to Detroit, he was the runner-up in the Indianapolis 500, finishing only 0.06 seconds behind race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.</p>

Helio Castroneves from Team Penske currently holds a 13-point lead over second-place and teammate Will Power. Castroneves has one victory this season, which came in the second race of the weekend doubleheader at Detroit in June. The week prior to Detroit, he was the runner-up in the Indianapolis 500, finishing only 0.06 seconds behind race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.

"As for the championship, I am not too concerned about that at this stage," Castroneves said. "We have strong pace everywhere we go. I'm focused on bringing the car home as best I can, and the championship will figure itself out. The schedule might say that we only have four races left in the season, but that is a lot, especially when the finale at Auto Club Speedway is for double points."

Castroneves has yet to win an IndyCar-sanctioned race at Mid-Ohio but scored the victory in a CART event here in 2000 and '01. His best lap during Friday's two practice sessions at this 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course was clocked in 1 minute, 7.2238 seconds, which placed him 18th on the overall time charts.

"I have great memories of winning at Mid-Ohio in the early 2000s," he said. "It's a course where I've always run well, and I'm looking forward to running there again. I'm confident we have a car that can win this race. It's a matter of working with the team to make sure we set up the car in the best way possible."

Power's fastest lap in practice was 1:07.0248, placing him 14th on the charts.

Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which made its debut this season, are the only road/street courses on the present IndyCar schedule where Power has not won. He has finished second at Mid-Ohio twice (2010 and '12). Power had a fourth-place run here last year.

"We'll have to put our heads down and push hard all weekend," Power said. "I would really love to get a win at Mid-Ohio. It's something I haven't been able to do yet in my career, and it would set us up well for the run to Auto Club Speedway."

Hunter-Reay, who is third in the championship standings (-69), posted the fastest lap overall in practice (1:06.8192). He started on the pole and finished fifth in the 2013 race at this track.

"Coming down to the final race and a championship on the line, we need to win," Hunter-Reay said. "It's amazing to think that we've won three races and Helio has won one, but he's that far out in the lead in points. That's the way the points system is right now. We need to win races because of the position we are in now. It's doable, and we'll keep at it."

Simon Pagenaud enters Sunday's 90-lap race at Mid-Ohio fourth in the standings (-71), while Juan Pablo Montoya, who is Castroneves and Power's teammate, is fifth (-105).

Scott Dixon, the three-time and defending series champion, is a distant 149 points out of the lead. Dixon has won four of the previous seven races at Mid- Ohio. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has not been to victory lane this season.

Last year, Dixon's teammate, Charlie Kimball, won an IndyCar race for the first time in his career at Mid-Ohio. In a race that ran caution-free, Kimball passed Pagenaud for the lead with 18 laps remaining. He beat Pagenaud to the finish line by 5.5 seconds. His maiden victory came in his 45th start.

Twenty-two teams are on the entry list for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Series: Verizon IndyCar. Date: Sunday, Aug. 3. Race: Honda Indy 200 at Mid- Ohio. Site: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Track: 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course. Start Time: 3:55 p.m. ET. Laps: 90. Miles: 203.22. 2013 Winner: Charlie Kimball. Television: NBC Sports Network. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.

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