Helio Castroneves has been in this spot before. In fact, he occupies the same position in the standings as he did this time last year.
Podium finishes by the driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet have delivered the IZOD IndyCar Series championship points lead. It might be only two events into the 19-race season, but such consistency will certainly keep the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner in the title hunt.
Castroneves finished third last weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. Paired with a runner-up finish at St. Petersburg, he holds a nine-point lead over Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon heading into the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 21.
"You have to take as it comes," said Castroneves, who broke a tie for 10th on the all-time Indy car list with Tony Kanaan and Gordon Johncock with his 108th top-five finish. "You have to enjoy the moment, but work for it. Those points are very valuable if you are thinking about the long term. Last year the championship was lost by three points.
"We are going to Long Beach with good points in the bag, but we are looking for our opportunity to win a race. We have to keep putting ourselves in those opportunities and the win is going to come. With that, I'm going to add more points. So you got to take as it comes."
Meanwhile, reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay kicked off defense of his series title with his decisive victory, helping make up for his DNF in the season opener. He accumulated four bonus points – one for the pole, two for leading the most laps and one for leading a lap – for a total of 54, which vaulted him into third in the standings. After two races in 2012, Hunter-Reay had totaled 53 points.
"I felt like coming into Barber this was going to be the start of our season," said Hunter-Reay. "We had a big hole to dig out of from St. Pete. We pulled a win. That's a new feat for us at Andretti Autosport.
"Several times in the offseason I said our biggest weaknesses were the permanent road courses like Barber and Sonoma, and the big superspeedways like Texas and Fontana. The guys gave me a great car.
"(This result) really shows that we're a threat every weekend. That's what we need to be to win championships, is be a threat every weekend. I have a good feeling we will be at Long Beach, Sao Paulo, and Indy, too. We're getting more work done early in the season than last year. Last year we started going on our hot streak much later in the season. So, hopefully, this is a sign of things to come."