Birmingham: Series race report

CASTRONEVES CLAIMS WIN AT INAUGURAL BARBER RACE IN FRONT OF ESTIMATED RECORD CROWD BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Sunday, April 11, 2010 - Helio Castroneves won for the first time on a road/street course race since August 2008, taking the inaugural Indy...

CASTRONEVES CLAIMS WIN AT INAUGURAL BARBER RACE IN FRONT OF ESTIMATED RECORD CROWD

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Sunday, April 11, 2010 - Helio Castroneves won for the first time on a road/street course race since August 2008, taking the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner inherited the lead when Marco Andretti had to pit for fuel eight laps from the end of the 90-lap race. Castroneves held off Scott Dixon by .5703 of a second, then thanked the spectators for attending the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama with his trademark celebratory fence climb in Turn 9. Dario Franchitti, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, finished third.

Castroneves also denied teammate Will Power of a series-record third consecutive victory to start the season. Power, the polesitter who had to pit for the final time on Lap 63 (dropping him to seventh), advanced to fourth and retains the championship points lead by 32 over Castroneves (104). Franchitti is third (94) as the series heads to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18.

The estimated three-day total attendance for the inaugural event exceeded the goals of race promoter ZOOM Motorsports, which estimated more than 86,000 fans attended the three-days of racing at Barber Motorsports Park - including an estimated record crowd of 53,555 fans on April 11.

"The attendance more than doubled the largest event ever held here previously at Barber Motorsports Park," said Gene Hallman, president and CEO of Zoom Motorsports. "The Indy Racing League product is a fast-growing and very demographically-dialed product for consumers in this market. Being the only race on the calendar in the Deep South, we were able to draw a lot of IndyCar fans into Birmingham, which helped us from a tourism perspective. The Indy Racing League is a tremendous partner and helped us immensely in this first year."

Indy Racing League officials were equally pleased with the on-track product showcased in front of the fans who attended the first-year event.

"I think our first race at Barber Motorsports Park was a very successful event. There was a lot of action down in Turn 5 and we saw quite a bit of passing in Turn 11 as well. It was a very good show and entertaining for everybody."

DAY THREE NOTEBOOK:

Taylor Hicks, the 2006 "American Idol" winner, received an up-close and (maybe too) personal view of the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park circuit in the front seat of a Honda Accord Pace Car courtesy of Firestone Indy Lights driver James Hinchcliffe.

Hicks, a Birmingham, Ala., native, sang the national anthem before the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union.

"I've never been to an IndyCar race and this is the first IndyCar race for a lot of people in the state of Alabama," said Hicks, who is on tour in "Grease." "To be able to get out on this course and see what the IndyCars do, you feel like you're really there and feeling the turns. (Hinchcliffe) did a great job and I had a great time."

Hinchcliffe appreciated the compliment.

"I may have turned the notch up just a bit in some of the turns," he said. "I like to think we give everybody pretty good rides, and it's cool to be here in Alabama and give him a taste of an IndyCar race. I'm pretty sure IndyCar has a fan for life now in Taylor Hicks."

***

'Do you want to get in the car?" E.J. Viso asked with a sly smile.

Charles Barkley, the "Round Mound of Rebound," gave the IZOD IndyCar Series driver one of those are-you-kidding-me? looks. "You don't have a shoehorn big enough," he said.

Before his duties as grand marshal of the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park, the native of nearby Leeds took in the sights of the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock, pit lane and paused every few feet to oblige a spectator's photo request.

Under the canopy of KV Racing Technology, he also received a brief tutorial of the multi-button steering wheel and car aerodynamics from Viso and attempted to try on his racing gloves.

"Not my size," joked Barkley, all 6 foot 6 and maybe just a few ounces heavier than his listed playing weight of 250 pounds to the 5-5 Viso.

"I'm a racing fan and have followed a few of the guys and girl (Danica Patrick)," said Barkley, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member. "It takes a lot of courage to go out there and race at more than 200 mph. This event is great for Birmingham, great for Leeds and great for Alabama. I've been at Barber Motorsports Park a few times before, but I've never seen so many fans. It's just great."

***

Of note: John Brunner has joined conquest as team manager. He formerly was with Forsyth … Eddie Allison, longtime chief mechanic for brother Bobby's stock cars, was a guest of A.J. Foyt on race day.

***

INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is Helio Castroneves' first IZOD IndyCar Series win of the season and the 17th win of his IZOD IndyCar Series career.

* The win gives Castroneves a record-setting 10th season with at least one win and his 10th consecutive season with at least one victory (also an IZOD IndyCar Series record).

* This is Team Penske's 38th win in the IZOD IndyCar Series. It has won all three races in 2010. Will Power won at Sao Paulo and St. Petersburg.

* Scott Dixon finished a season-best second-place - his first podium finish of the season.

* Dario Franchitti finished a season-best second-place - his first podium finish of the season.

* Marco Andretti finished a season-best fifth place.

INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA POST-RACE QUOTES

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, winner Indy Grand Prix of Alabama): "I felt like the Team Penske car was better than Marco's but, unfortunately, I just couldn't pass him. I was just patient and waiting for an opportunity, and well, I guess we were able to be smart enough to save a lot of fuel. Towards the end, we just had a yellow flag. I didn't ask for that. Especially when you have Scott Dixon and those guys behind you. So I just decided to make sure I did not give any opportunities for those guys, and that's what I did. I knew what the car was capable of doing. Sometimes you've got to count with a little luck. So today was a great day for Team Penske, and especially the No. 3 guys."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished second): "It was a good day for Team Target all in all with both cars in the top three. We could have been better off if we would have got around Helio. It was hard to have the team telling me to save fuel and try to manage the fuel gauge, but still push. I feel that the officials made a poor call when they said that I passed Helio at the start/finish line. I got back behind him and he went around the outside at Turn 1. This track is all about track position. It was great weekend for the team. We didn't have the fastest cars, but we made use of what we had. Standing at the podium in second and third is pretty impressive. We are looking forward to Long Beach."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Suave, finished third): "The Target team was working hard on the fuel strategy today. Will Power and I were side by side at the end there, but with so many lap cars in between us, it was really hard to fight for the positions. I am pleased to be on the podium and sit second in points after starting in seventh today. It was great to see all the fans. The atmosphere here was incredible and I am looking forward to returning to this track in the future.

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske finished fourth): "It is great having Helio win which makes it three wins to start the season for Team Penske. In the strategy meeting before the race we talked about it and we knew that a caution in the early part of the race would not be to our favor. We made the best of it though. The No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car was fast today. The guys did a great job in the pits. We are still in the points lead heading into Long Beach. I think we are going to be strong there."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, finished fifth): "We have to be happy to put the Venom car into the top five, especially after our finishes on road courses last year. I think maybe we could have stretched out each of our stints a bit longer and gained on fuel one lap at a time. Helio (Castroneves) just went longer than us each time and that was the difference at the end. He was able to go that much farther and we fell short. Now we just have to keep marching forward. The four of us are working together to keep improving our race cars; we're still a bit off pace. Overall I think this shows we're on the right track."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, finished sixth):"I am pretty happy with a top-six today in the Team Penske car. We made some key passes there at the end getting past Wilson, Kanaan and Conway. The guys did great in the pits and Roger (Penske) called a great race. We were really in great shape until the last yellow came out since a few guys in front of us were going to have to pit. If it was not for that yellow we would have been on the podium."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, finished eighth): "It was a long day for us. I think we had the right strategy, but we just didn't have the kind of speed that we needed to push those guys up front. It's tough, but we have to keep working and get ready for Long Beach."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, finished 10th): "We made up 11 spots so I take my hat off to the team. They did a good job. We stuck together all weekend and we made some ground and learned a lot. Until the very end of the weekend, we improved the car and I'm very proud of the boys. Even on a tough weekend, we did another top-10 so I'm very happy and very proud of our team. I'm very proud to be wearing the new colors of LaCapsule Sportive/Adonis Products and I want to remind everyone that this is the beginning of our new clothing line in LaCapsule Sportive so keep an eye on it as it is coming soon."

***

The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues April 18 with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at :3:30 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Grand Prix of Long Beach April 18 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif.. The race will air live on indycar.com.

-source: irl

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Will Power , James Hinchcliffe , A.J. Foyt
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , FAZZT Race Team