INDIANAPOLIS, May 27, 2001 - Oldsmobile turned its last lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in style today, powering rookie Helio Castroneves to victory in the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 - the fifth consecutive year that Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 has won auto racing's biggest race and the 11th Indy 500 victory for team owner Roger Penske.
"I've been dreaming of this!" exclaimed Castroneves as he downed the traditional bottle of milk in Victory Circle after an exuberant celebration that included climbing the fence at the start-finish line.
Oldsmobile engines led from start of finish in the division's fifth and final appearance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Bravada Official Pace Vehicle brought the field of 33 starters to the green flag; 200 laps later, Castroneves was first to the checkered flag by a 1.73-second margin of victory over teammate Gil de Ferran's identical Oldsmobile Dallara in the first 1-2 finish at Indy by the Penske team. Oldsmobile-powered cars swept the top 14 finishing positions, with Michael Andretti third, Jimmy Vasser fourth and Bruno Junqueira fifth.
"One of the objectives of the Oldsmobile motorsports program was to win the Indianapolis 500 with an engine based on the design of the production Aurora V8 engine," said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "We are pleased that we have achieved this goal for five straight years, giving Oldsmobile an undefeated record in the Indianapolis 500."
Oldsmobile engines have now led 996 out of 1,000 laps on the famed 2.5-mile speedway since 1997. Castroneves continued Oldsmobile's reign on a rainy day that saw the race stopped for 16 minutes due to moisture on the track. A total of 22 laps were run under caution due to the wet conditions, while cold temperatures contributed to crashes that eliminated polesitter Scott Sharp on the first lap and sidelined Sarah Fisher on the seventh circuit.
Castroneves, 26, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, took the point on lap 149 and never relinquished it. He had to fend off de Ferran's challenge on lap 172 after the final caution period when the two raced side-by-side into the first turn.
"In this situation, no teammates," Castroneves declared.
The Penske pair used IRL Aurora V8 engines prepared by Ilmor Engineering of Plymouth, Mich. The Penske team dedicated its victory to the memory of Ilmor co-founder Paul Morgan, who died recently in a plane crash.
"Our relationship with Ilmor has been outstanding, and Paul was the moving force," said Roger Penske. "His son Patrick was here and I said to him as we were standing on the grid, 'This race is for your Dad.' I'm glad we could deliver that."
"It was unbelievable day and it speaks for the type of team we have and the people who work with us," said runner-up de Ferran. "The car ran like clockwork throughout the race, the engines were unbelievable. Ilmor did a great job preparing for this race. This was their first (500-mile) race with this type of engine.
"It was a logistical nightmare to put this whole thing together," continued de Ferran, the reigning CART champion. "Roger himself pushed the whole month to make the cars better, the engines better. He was always pushing, pushing, pushing."
The Penske team's thorough preparation for the Indy 500 included running their Oldsmobile race engines on the dyno on the Friday night before the race. "We were flying helicopters and airplanes back and forth to Detroit, doing whatever it took to ensure we had the best possible engines for today," reported Penske Racing team manager Tim Cindric.
Although Andretti was disappointed with his third-place finish, he was optimistic about next year's Indy 500. "I learned a lot about the race cars which will hopefully help me next year," said Andretti, who led 16 laps. "We had a good race car today, it was as good as anybody's."
Oldsmobile engines dominated the crown jewel of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. IRL Aurora V8s powered 30 of the 33 starters and 23 of the 24 cars running at the finish. The top four finishers represented three independent Oldsmobile engine builders: Ilmor Engineering (Castroneves and de Ferran), Speedway Engine Development (Andretti) and Comptech Machine (Jimmy Vasser).
The next stop on the IRL schedule is the Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, June 9. The race will be televised on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. EDT.
<pre> Race Summary
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2.5-mile oval Winner: Helio Castroneves, Penske Racing Oldsmobile Dallara Margin of Victory: 1.7373 seconds Average Speed: 153.601 mph Pole: Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 226.0237 mph Fastest Lap: Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 219.774 mph
Top Five Finishers
Pos./Driver/Engine/Laps 1. Helio Castroneves/Oldsmobile, 200 laps 2. Gil de Ferran/Oldsmobile, 200 3. Michael Andretti/Oldsmobile, 200 4. Jimmy Vasser/Oldsmobile, 200 5. Bruno Junqueira/Oldsmobile, 200
Laps Led: Oldsmobile 200, Infiniti 0 Starters: Oldsmobile 30, Infiniti 3 Running at Finish: Oldsmobile 23, Infiniti 1
Championship Standings After 4 of 13 events Driver/Engine/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 152 (2) 2. Eliseo Salazar/Oldsmobile, 131 3. Felipe Giaffone/Oldsmobile, 100 4. Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 97 5. Buzz Calkins/Oldsmobile, 89
Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Oldsmobile, 44 (4) 2. Nissan, 28 (0)
Next Race: June 9, 2001, Casino Magic 500, Fort Worth, Texas, 1.5-mile oval TV: ESPN, 8:30 p.m. EDT