Rear View Mirror: Contact puts dent in title hopes for Dixon, Castroneves

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No matter whose perspective you believe regarding their ill-timed coming together during The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, one thing is undeniable: The contact between Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves probably put as big a dent in their Verizon IndyCar Series title hopes as in their race cars.

The Indianapolis 500 winners collided in Turn 2 while battling for position on Lap 15 of 90 in Sunday’s race after each had made his first pit stop. Dixon, in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, got a run on Castroneves, in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, in the straight leading to the sweeping 180-degree corner on the 2.258-mile permanent road course.

Dixon dove inside of Castroneves leading into the turn, looking to complete the pass. Their cars made contact in the corner, snapping Dixon’s left-front suspension and damaging Castroneves’ sidepod (see the replays below).

Castroneves was able to continue and soldiered on to a 15th-place finish. Dixon’s car had to be towed to the garage area for repairs and returned to the track 45 laps later only to run enough laps to mileage out his Chevy engine in order to receive a fresh one going forward.

His 22nd-place finish in the race had Dixon going backward in the standings, however. The 35-year-old New Zealander, in search of a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship, lost 44 points to leader Simon Pagenaud, slipping a spot to fifth in the standings, 127 points out of first place.

And he was none too happy about it.

“I was pushing hard there,” Dixon said. “I was alongside Helio and then, as we got to the braking zone, just kept edging over. Eventually we got to the curb so there was nowhere to go. He didn’t give me enough room and obviously ran me off the track.

“Had we had a little more room, I think we could have gotten through there just fine,” Dixon added. “It was definitely an aggressive move, but I should have known better trying that with Helio. It usually ends like this with him.”

Despite remaining in the race and finishing on the lead lap, Castroneves also lost valuable ground to teammate Pagenaud. Though still third in the standings, Castroneves’ gap to the points leader grew from 74 to 111 points with just four races to be completed.

Immediately after the race, Castroneves said he wasn’t sure what happened. But the Brazilian, still in search of his first season championship in his 19th Indy car season, took to Twitter on Monday to defend his view that there was no opening for Dixon to attempt the pass.

“The gap never (closed) because there was no gap, he tried to make the gap,” Castroneves wrote in one tweet reply. In another, he wrote, “Yes it was an aggressive move and there was no space for even trying … destroyed both races!”

Whether it destroyed their championship hopes remains to be seen. Dixon has won at all four remaining tracks on the schedule – Pocono, Texas, Watkins Glen and Sonoma. Castroneves has more victories at Texas (four) than anyone in Indy cars, has won at Sonoma, is a three-time Watkins Glen pole winner and been a pole sitter and podium finisher at Pocono.

“Looks like some of my competitors had a bad day except for Will (Power, who finished second) and Pagenaud; great job for them,” Castroneves said after Mid-Ohio. “They are probably on their way to a good battle for the championship, but we will keep focused."

Full course yellow for contact between @ScottDixon9 and @H3lio in Turn 2 #INDYCAR #Honda200 https://t.co/1I2Xejdij6 pic.twitter.com/xwLqlYP8qd

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