IndyCar enters its home stretch during a busy August starting with Sunday's race at Mid-Ohio and with Helio Castroneves once again trying to win his first series title.
After Mid-Ohio, the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to The Milwaukee Mile on Aug. 17. Then it goes west to the Sonoma Raceway road couse on Aug. 24 and wraps up the season at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway oval in Fontana with a night race Aug. 30.
Up first is the Honda Indy 200 at the 2.26-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, where Castroneves arrived with a slim 13-point lead in the championship standings over his Team Penske teammate Will Power.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and this year's Indianapolis 500 winner, is third in the standings, 69 points behind Castroneves. And Simon Pagenaud, a two-time winner this season, is 71 points back in fourth.
The 39-year-old Castroneves is a three-time Indy 500 winner but the championship always has eluded him. The Brazilian finished second to Scott Dixon in the title chase last year, the third time Castroneves has been been runner-up.
Adding a wrinkle to the championship battle is that IndyCar this year is awarding double points at its 500-mile races, which includes Fontana.
"The schedule might say that we have only four races left in the season, but that is a lot," Castroneves said in notes released by his team. "Especially when the finale at Auto Club Speedway is for double points.
"I'm focused on bringing the car home as best I can and the championship will figure itself out," he said.
There's one other intriguing storyline in this year's title hunt: Juan Pablo Montoya.
The Colombian returned to IndyCar with Penske this season year after seven years in NASCAR stock-car racing. And with his win at Pennsylvania's Pocono Raceway last month, Montoya is now fifth in the standings, 105 points behind Castroneves.
The double points awaiting at Fontana "means a lot of teams are still eligible for the championship and [it] will be right down to the wire," Montoya said. "There is a lot of racing, with a lot of points, left to go in the year."
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