Castroneves Wins at Kentucky to Lead Team Penske
September 5, 2010
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
SPARTA, Ky. (September 4, 2010) - Team Penske's gamble came up a winner Saturday as Helio Castroneves and his crew used a clever fuel strategy to win the Kentucky Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
Castroneves' No. 3 car team turned around its fortunes after troubles on pit lane earlier in the race. Shifting gears to a different strategy, Castroneves pitted behind the rest of the field on the 147th lap of the 200-lap race and made his fuel last to the finish as the rest of the field had to stop for fuel in the final laps. The result was Castroneves' second win of the season and a jump from fifth to fourth in the championship standings with two races remaining in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
"Things happen for a reason," Castroneves said. "We were running well. We weren't the fastest car, but we were running well. All of a sudden we had an opportunity to try something. We didn't have much to lose. We did the same thing in 2008, but we ran out of fuel at the end. I was saying, ‘Please don't let the same thing happen this time.'"
While Castroneves was winning, Team Penske teammate Will Power was maintaining his lead in the championship standings by finishing eighth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda. Power led 83 laps in all and ran a strong race for the second consecutive oval race. He recovered from nearly hitting the wall late in the race, but he dropped from a battle for the lead into fifth place.
"I thought it was done then," Power said of the incident. "That's when I lost a lot of positions, but then I lost some more. I went into fuel-saving mode and wasn't quite as aggressive. We led plenty of laps. I'm going to get it one day."
The news wasn't as good for Ryan Briscoe, who was caught up in a crash involving Simona de Silvestro and Vitor Meira on the 82nd lap of the race. Briscoe, who was running inside the top-10 at the time of the accident, suffered a bruised foot in the incident and he was mathematically eliminated from the championship.
"It's disappointing being collateral damage of another accident," said Briscoe. "We started with a good night. I drove to the front and then started picking up a lot of understeer, so we made an adjustment during the pit stop. I think the No. 6 Team Penske car was going to have a good race tonight. We just needed to improve on the balance a bit. It is very disappointing to not finish the race."
But the night belonged to Castroneves, whose No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda had a tough pit stop midway through the race. Castroneves re-entered the pits a few laps later to make sure the car received all of its necessary service and the team also topped off its fuel load, which proved to be the key move of the race. Castroneves ran behind the leaders during the final quarter of the race under fuel-saving orders. Race strategist Tim Cindric knew that Castroneves could get to the finish under green-flag conditions without having to stop for fuel.
"Sometimes fate decides this deal," Cindric said. "It was our chance tonight. We didn't execute on one of our pit stops, and you have to figure out how to make the most of that and how not to quit. Helio is the guy who never quits."
After capturing the checkered flag, Castroneves climbed the fence on the frontstretch at the 1.5-mile speedway, then congratulated Cindric and the Team Penske crew for the call and the effort that got him to the finish.
"All three of the Penske guys worked together today," said Castroneves. "The No. 3 group deserved this. We've had so many injuries on the pit crew, and these guys have been doing everything they can to win. I'm just so thankful for this one."
Power now leads Dario Franchitti by 17 points in the championship standings. Castroneves is fourth, 104 points behind, but only 21 points out of third place, while Briscoe is fifth in the standings, now 134 points off the leader.
The IZOD IndyCar Series season resumes Sept. 18 at the Twin Ring Motegi oval in Japan. The live broadcast of the race begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on Versus. The season then concludes on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.