Helio Castroneves won the Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway, earning his first victory since winning the Indianapolis 500 last year. Helio Castroneves. Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney. After going 20 races...
Helio Castroneves won the Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway, earning his first victory since winning the Indianapolis 500 last year.
Castroneves ran the race without dashboard readouts or telemetry in his Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, "It is like flying an airplane without the instruments, just by radios. The team did a phenomenal job."
"I never lost the faith in my crew. My crew never lost the faith in me," A more subdue and serious Castroneves said after the victory celebration. "They always believed. I guess that's the way it should be. It's tough, you know.
"You have to keep knocking on the door. One day you're going to get your breaks. Unfortunately, it took a little more than we expected. But this is racing, this is the game. We're very optimistic. We had a lot of troubles, but turned out to be in a good way."
He inherited the lead from Scott Dixon on lap 158 when the New Zealander stopped with gearbox problems.
Dixon had dominated the race up to that point, leading 78 laps before being sidelined. Having led every practice session during the event, he was able to pull away from the field with ease. Leading by nearly six seconds, it looked as if he was on his way to scoring his fourth victory of the season. Instead, the Kiwi was credited with 15th place.
"It's so hard to have a race like this end the way it did," said Dixon. "We had a dominant race car out there. After the last pit stop, I was just saving fuel and waiting until the end to really push it. We had a comfortable lead and then the gearbox went. The guys tried to change it in the pits, but it was damaged too badly."
Tony Kanaan finished second moving back into the points lead after relinquishing the lead when he suffered mechanical problems the Michigan Indy 400 two weeks ago. Kanaan led twice for a total of 21 laps.
"It was a good run for us," Kanaan said. "I gave everything I had but it wasn't enough for Helio. But hey, the championship is back on us, let's keep working on that. That's what we're here for. We're fighting for the championship. I gave 100 percent to win, but I couldn't do it, so I'll take second."
Castroneves' Penske teammate, Gil de Ferran finished third, scoring 35 points, enough to move into second place in the championship standings. De Ferran was upbeat about his finish, saying, "We're right in the championship hunt. Really, the top four guys in the points are right on top of each other. Somehow, I don't think it's going to get resolved until the end of the year."
Only ten points now separate the top three drivers, Kanaan, de Ferran and Castroneves, in the race for championship.
Tomas Scheckter was fourth today, 2.819 seconds behind Castroneves, giving Toyota three of the top four spots. "It was an up and down race. I made a mistake coming into the pits. I couldn't get in my box, and they had to pull me back. I went to the back. I had to fight through it but we made some good restarts."
"The car was pretty good," said Wheldon. "We struggled a bit all weekend with the setup. It seemed like we had a good balance for the race. It seemed like it wasn't quite as quick as the leaders, but I could certainly run with them."
Wheldon missed two races this season, as he was not scheduled to compete with Andretti Green Racing until the Indianapolis 500 in May. He was pressed into service one month early when he drove the team's No. 27 car at Motegi, substituting for Dario Franchitti, who was injured in a motorcycle accident in his native Scotland. Despite his limited schedule, Wheldon trails Roger Yasukawa in the IndyCar Series rookie of the year standings by only 26 points.
Toyota-powered cars have now won 9 of the eleven Indy Racing League events this season. Helio Castroneves become the sixth different driver to win using the Japanese manufacturer's engine. Toyota extends its lead in the IndyCar Series Manufacturer's Championship by 25 points over Honda, (104-79).
Fighting to get competitive with the Japanese manufacturers' engines, Cheever Racing, with Buddy Rice at the wheel, had Chevrolet's new Gen IV Indy V8 powerplant for this race, its final test before all the Chevy teams will have the new engine.
"We didn't get the result today that we were looking for," stated Rice. Chevy gave us a great engine to work with all weekend, and we were very impressed with its performance. It proved to us to be a reliable engine that has the capacity to be very competitive." We just did not have the setup for the race we needed, we hope that next weekend in Kentucky will prove to be a better race for us and give us the chance to show what the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 can do."