The championship showdown between IndyCar Series rivals Scott Dixon and Hélio Castroneves will take a further twist, with both drivers joining a raft of other racers in taking a ten-place grid penalty for this weekend’s MAVTV 500 finale at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway.
The penalty comes from the decision of ther respective teams – Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske – to change their engines ahead of their 2,000-mile shelf life in order to minimise the risk of any reliability problems in Saturday night’s super speedway race.
Dixon currently leads Castroneves by 25 going into the finale, meaning Castroneves would have to win the race and have Dixon finish ninth or lower in order to claim the crown.
With overtaking particularly easy around the two-mile oval circuit, neither driver should experience too much difficulty working their way to the front of the pack, and their odds of doing so will be greatly improved due to a number of other drivers copping the same penalty.
The Series’ rules dictate that each car is allowed a maximum of five engines per season, which can be changed without penalty when they hit 2,000 miles of running. If an engine change is performed before this limit, a ten-place grid penalty will apply.
However, an added complication is that neither Dixon nor Castroneves will be eligible to score points on behalf of their respective engine makers, Honda and Chevrolet, on account of this being the sixth engine each driver will use this season.
Chevrolet and Honda – with nine wins apiece – are tied on points in the little-followed Manufacturers’ Championship standings.
Sarah Fisher Hartman’s Josef Newgarden, AJ Foyt Enterprises’ Takuma Sato, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal – who are all powered by Honda engines – have also had new engines installed ahead of this weekend’s event and will also have ten-place grid penalties.
In addition to this, Alex Tagliani (subbing for the injured Dario Franchitti at Chip Ganassi Racing) and Pippa Mann (driving the #18 Dale Coyne Racing entry) had their sixth engines installed ahead of the preceding round at Houston, meaning that Honda will be trying to win the Manufacturers’ Championship with seven of its cars ineligible to claim points on its behalf.
Dragon Racing’s Sebastián Saavedra has also had his Chevrolet engine changed ahead of this weekend’s event, but with his being his fifth engine of the season, he can still score points despite also being hit with a ten-place grid drop.