IRL: Helio Castroneves revels in Detroit return

The return to Detroit's Belle Isle racecourse for this weekend's Detroit Grand Prix IndyCar race marks a homecoming for Team Penske's Helio Castroneves. The two-time Indy 500 winner has won twice on the circuit (2000, 2001) when it was a regular...

The return to Detroit's Belle Isle racecourse for this weekend's Detroit Grand Prix IndyCar race marks a homecoming for Team Penske's Helio Castroneves.

The two-time Indy 500 winner has won twice on the circuit (2000, 2001) when it was a regular stop on the Championship Auto Racing Teams' schedule.

Castroneves will make his first racing return since those two successful outings when practice commences Friday morning for the Sunday afternoon IndyCar Series event.

With a win under his belt on the street course at St. Petersburg earlier this year, Castroneves can't wait to get back to the park-like island that sits in the middle of the Detroit River only five minutes from downtown.

"I've been there many, many times over the last year with Roger (Penske)," he said on Wednesday afternoon's Indy Racing League teleconference, "trying to help him find out what's the best layout for the racecourse and suggesting things we can improve."

"It's a great place and it's a great challenge. It brings back great memories," he said.

Though he's won here in the past, and tested in an IndyCar on the track within the last month, Castroneves doesn't feel he has any advantage competitively.

In his estimation it has changed in some significant aspects from his last successful CART outing.

"The back straight, in particular, there's a sharp right-hand turn where we used to have a fast corner. Now for every car it's a hard braking point. It's going to give a place for passing, for overtaking," he said.

On the other hand, the circuit still retains some of its street course character that makes it unique, and difficult.

"The track is still pretty rough, a little bumpy, but that's the way it's always been. That we haven't changed," he said. "There's some areas of asphalt, some areas of concrete. It's very narrow, and there are walls alongside the curves. The margin of error is small."

Although he's out of contention for the Indy Racing League championship, Castroneves revels in the idea of playing the spoiler and perhaps helping determine who wears the champion's ring at the end of the season.

Speaking of the points race, now reaching its climax with only two races to go and Scott Dixon holding a slim four point advantage over Andretti Green's Dario Franchitti, Castroneves cast himself as a force to reckon with on Sunday.

"I have to say that Detroit is going to be a very critical point for both of them. Scott has the momentum, going from the chasing to the hunted. He is a strong road-racer as well," he commented.

"But Andretti Green has the cars that can take the points, so that might favor Dario as well."

"Hopefully, I will be able to run up front at Detroit. I'm going to try and spoil their celebration a little bit," he said.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon
Teams Team Penske