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IndyCar heads to Mid-Ohio with a tight points battle

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After running its last two races in Canada, the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the United States with this weekend's event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Just four races remain, with three of them taking place on road/street courses. Following Sunday's race at Mid-Ohio, the series will compete at Sonoma (Aug. 26) and Baltimore (Sept. 2) before wrapping up the season on Sept. 15 in Fontana, Calif., which is the only oval left on this year's schedule.

It should be an exciting month and a half for IndyCar, since the top-three drivers are separated by a mere 26 points.

Helio Castroneves bounced right back into the championship battle with his victory last week in Edmonton. Castroneves won the March 25 season-opener in St. Petersburg but started falling out of title contention after finishing 17th in the June 3 race in Detroit. He trailed then leader Will Power by 55 points.

Castroneves has now moved up to second in the standings and trails Ryan Hunter-Reay by 23 points.

"To be honest, we were never out," Castroneves said. "We were always in the battle for the championship since we started. Now, we're closer, and we're taking the opportunities that we run very well, to take advantage of it."

Hunter-Reay had won three races in a row -- Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto -- but had his streak broken with a seventh-place finish in Edmonton.

"We're going to need another race win to win the championship, and that's our total focus," Hunter-Reay said. "I'm committed to working just as hard as a driver as my engineers and pit crew are working. As a team, we're 110-percent committed to bringing a championship back to Andretti Autosport."

Castroneves has rebounded nicely in 2012 after his disappointing 11th-place finish in points last year.

"He's stronger than ever this year," said Power, who is Castroneves' teammate at Team Penske. "He's been really consistent on days that he can't win. When he can win, he absolutely executes. He's strong, and Hunter-Reay is strong."

Power started off the season with a bang by winning three consecutive races -- Birmingham, Long Beach and Brazil. But Power has struggled somewhat since then, with finishes of 28th (Indianapolis), 23rd (Iowa), 15th (Toronto) and 12th (Milwaukee). He put his season back on track with a third-place run in Edmonton.

Scott Dixon, who is currently fourth in points (-61), has won three of the first five IndyCar races at Mid-Ohio, including a victory there last year. Dixon enjoys running on this 2.258-mile, 13-turn course.

"It has a great flow to it," he said. "It's similar to how we've done well at older American tracks - the layouts, the undulations, the longer corners seem to suit my style, which is always nice."

Dixon won in Detroit but has finished outside the top-10 in three of the last five races. When the series competed in Toronto last month, Dixon suffered engine failure in the early going and wound up finishing 25th.

Twenty-five teams are on the entry list for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Giorgio Pantano will substitute for the injured Charlie Kimball in the No. 83 car for Chip Ganassi Racing. Kimball fractured his right hand in an accident during testing on July 26 at Mid-Ohio.

Series: IZOD IndyCar. Date: Sunday, August 5. Race: Honda Indy 200 at Mid- Ohio. Site: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Track: 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course. Start Time: 1 p.m. (ET). Laps: 85. Miles: 191.25. 2011 Winner: Scott Dixon. Television: ABC. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.

08/01 18:36:09 ET

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