Helio Castroneves

NEWTON, Iowa – Helio Castroneves addresses the “C” question with the alacrity he displayed in winning “Dancing With the Stars.”

Is this the year you win the championship?

“This is not my first rodeo, which is a good problem to have,” replies Castroneves, who slid into a tie with Team Penske teammate Will Power for the top spot in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings thanks in part to a runner-up finish July 6 in the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco.

“Any time you put yourself in this position it’s awesome, but we still have a lot of races to go.”

That’s been the caveat through his Indy car career – a consistent title contender who’s come up short at the end. A replica of the Astor Cup presented to the championship driver would complement the three Baby Borgs nicely in his Florida home and "mean the world to me."

Power, who was battling bronchitis this weekend at Iowa Speedway, shares similar sentiments. He was the championship runner-up for three consecutive seasons, and this year both drivers have managed the duality of team and individual goals. Team owner Roger Penske hasn’t earned the entrant/driver championship since 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr.

“The one goal here is to bring the championship, and when you are fighting with your teammate who had the same chance how are you going to do that?  Because not only he has the same equipment, the same setup and you are on the same team,” Castroneves says.

Castroneves has outscored Power by 72 points in the Triple Crown series double-points races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway. Castroneves has accumulated 160 base points (80 for each runner-up finish), plus 38 bonus points from Indianapolis 500 qualifications and laps led. Power finished eighth in the Indianapolis 500 (48 base points) and 10th in the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco on July 6 (40 points), in addition to receiving 38 bonus points.

The third round of the Triple Crown – the MATV 500 on Aug. 30 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. – also is the season finale. The champion hasn’t been decided until the final race the past eight seasons, and double points interjected into the mix will make it nine.

“This is not a time to panic. We still have a lot of racing to go,” says Power.

He placed 14th in the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB under the lights July 12 and trails Castroneves, who finished eighth, by nine points in the standings.

The Honda Indy Toronto – the third, and final, doubleheader race weekend of the season – is July 19-20 to close four consecutive weekends of competition. Both races carry full base and bonus points.

“Any type of doubleheader is always a tough one.  I haven’t thought ahead much right now I’m thinking Iowa first and so we are just hoping that we come out of here with a good result as well so we can continue fighting,” Castroneves says.