As the temperature neared 90 degrees on a cloudless day in Fontana, Helio Castroneves turned practice laps Tuesday in front of an empty Auto Club Speedway as part of his effort to win his first IndyCar championship.
Castroneves and other drivers in the Izod IndyCar Series held a test session on the two-mile oval ahead of the MAVTV 500, a night race Oct. 19 that will be the series' season finale.
A three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Castroneves also hopes he'll finish the Fontana race with the series title.
The Team Penske driver holds a 49-point lead over two-time champion Scott Dixon with three races remaining: A doubleheader Oct. 5-6 on the streets of Houston and the race at Auto Club Speedway.
Castroneves said it wasn't a problem that the drivers tested during the hot daytime hours Tuesday even though the race will be held under cooler conditions at night next month.
The test still was "really important" because it helped ensure "our car is consistent, which has been the key to this championship for us" so far, Castroneves said during a break in the session.
Castroneves has one win this season, at Texas Motor Speedway in June.
The 38-year-old Brazilian, a onetime "Dancing With the Stars" winner, was asked whether he planned to be aggressive and try to win the remaining races or more conservative in hopes of earning points toward the securing championship.
"It was horrible, this three, four weeks of break because it gets you thinking too much" about that question, Castroneves said, referring to how the IndyCar series hasn't raced since Sept. 1.
"You're like, 'What should I do, go for it or should I just take it easy?' " he said. "At this point I'm just thinking I have to have a very, very good solid race."
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