IRL: St. Pete: Race report

CASTRONEVES CLAIMS WIN AT ST. PETERSBURG ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Sunday, April 2, 2006 -- Helio Castroneves captured his first non-oval win in the IndyCar® Series holding off Scott Dixon to win the Honda Grand Prix of St....

CASTRONEVES CLAIMS WIN AT ST. PETERSBURG

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Sunday, April 2, 2006 -- Helio Castroneves captured his first non-oval win in the IndyCar® Series holding off Scott Dixon to win the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Castroneves took the lead on Lap 95 after leader Scott Dixon pitted for fuel. Castroneves beat Dixon into Turn 1 of the 1.8-mile temporary street course.

Dixon, who exited the pits just ahead of Tony Kanaan, never had a chance to chase down Castroneves after Tomas Scheckter and Buddy Rice made contact while battling for fourth.

Castroneves, who won his eighth career win and marked the win with his signature fence climb victory celebration, took the IndyCar Series point lead with the win and leads Kanaan by 23 heading into the Indy Japan 300 on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi.

HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG POST-RACE QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner, Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg): "I was really pushing out there. I was trying to go as fast as I could. Even when I was in the lead, I was getting too close to the wall, trying to make up time. (Were you happy to see the caution come out?): "Everyone was telling me 'Go for it. Go for it.' I drove it like I stole it. The team worked so hard. Sam (Hornish) and everyone else." (About Paul Dana): "Paul Dana, you're in our hearts. You and your whole family."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone finished second): "It's always a lot easier when the car roles off the trailer quick. You just get with it. With this series, you don't get a whole lot of time on the track, so you have to be on it quick. Team Target definitely did that, so it was a good weekend all-in-all."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "When you have a very good car, you can do a lot of pushups after the race. I'm not blaming it on the car. I think we definitely had a competitive car, but trying to keep up with those guys made it a very hard day. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough. I'm very tired for sure."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "We got shuffled back. We got caught behind a couple of slower cars at some crucial moments and that hurt us a little bit. But we battled back and got fourth place and a whole lot of points. It's something we can build on and get some momentum now."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Econova Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): "I was telling (team co-owner) John Barnes that patience pays here. That's what we did the whole race. How do you here depends on your strategy. We were saving fuel since the first lap and never really risked much. We were racing smart instead of racing aggressive. Some people chose to race aggressive, but we didn't. It paid off for us."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished ninth): "I knew it was going to be a hard weekend because it was my first road race in an Indy Car. I had a great time. I learned a lot, especially in the race. We were stronger from the middle out, and then A.J. (Foyt) made a good call on pit strategy to pick up two spots at the end. We need to keep finishing races and we can keep improving our communication, and I think we'll keep getting stronger and stronger."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, finished 16th): "The Target team got word from Race Control that we were indeed in front of the No. 6 car coming out of the pits, and that we were going to be waved ahead of (Sam) Hornish. All I saw was Sam's (Hornish Jr.) hand come off the wheel like he was signaling to let me by. I waved a thank you back, made the pass and then suddenly I was up in the air and out of the race. I made it back to the pits but there was too much damage to repair. I'm disappointed for the Target team because we overcame a lot to get back into the fray at the front. The No.10 Target Honda was as quick as the leaders but it just didn't happen for us."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 13th): "The team did a great job all weekend, and I was pleased the race up until the accident. I'm disappointed, but excited about the potential we showed."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, finished 12th): "We went with a different strategy than the others but it could have worked well for us late in the race. We saved fuel in the middle of the race, and we could go all out in the last 10 laps. Unfortunately, (Sam) Hornish ran out in front of us with old tires, and he was about two seconds a lap off the leaders then. That killed us with a chance to race at the end. I was able to get by Bryan (Herta) and then Kosuke (Matsuura) with the same wear on our tires. (Tomas) Scheckter's team tried to stretch their tires a lot longer, and he was all over the place. He was slow too, like Hornish was with old tires. I thought I had a good run on him, and I moved to the inside. I moved over twice and he kept coming, then we tangled. I was further back on Herta twice in that corner, and he gave me room for the pass. I guess Scheckter wasn't going to let me by at any cost. It cost us two top-five positions."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished eighth): "The #6 Marlboro Team Penske car was very strong for the first half of the race, but we ran into some problems at the end with the brakes. I had to push so hard that they would either lock up, or I couldn't stop. We tried a little bit different strategy than Helio and ran the last 45 laps on the same set of tires. The combination of the two problems hurt us. I'm really happy that Helio (Castroneves) won because we had such bad luck on the road courses last year. He deserves this one. Now, we'll just look to Motegi, and hopefully we'll get a better result.

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, finished sixth): "We gambled on a two pit strategy, and the key for us today was our fuel mileage. We had to make sure that we got good fuel mileage. We ran pretty conservatively the first half to three-quarters of the race. We really made sure that we were getting good mileage, especially under the yellows, and that enabled us to do the race in two stops. It made all the difference. I said it earlier to the Argent group, our team is pretty good when it comes to strategy, and that was something they should watch for today. The experience we have gained over the last year really helped today. I really had a feel for when I could push the Argent Honda and when I needed to be patient and not make mistakes. We just need to build on this momentum. It was really important for us to place well since we didn't run last week. It doesn't matter if it was a DNF or a withdraw last week, we just had to score points in St. Pete. With 14 races on the schedule any time you don't finish the race, it is going to loom large."

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Buddy Rice , Paul Dana , Chip Ganassi , John Barnes , A.J. Foyt
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing