Castroneves Wins IndyCar's Alabama Debut In front of a full house of approximately 40,000 race fans, Helio Castroneves made the best use of an alternative pit-stop strategy adopted by a third of the field in Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of ...
Castroneves Wins IndyCar's Alabama Debut
In front of a full house of approximately 40,000 race fans, Helio Castroneves made the best use of an alternative pit-stop strategy adopted by a third of the field in Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, prevailing to hold off Scott Dixon by just over five-tenths of a second in the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series race to be held at the challenging Barber Motorsports Park, located just outside of Birmingham.
For the third consecutive race weekend this young season, all 25 Honda-powered drivers and teams completed the race weekend without a single failure for the Honda Indy V-8 engine. This weekend, drivers logged a total of 9,524 trouble-free miles around the hilly, demanding 2.3-mile Barber circuit.
In a race that was nearly caution-free, it was the only two yellow flags that both dictated strategy and determined the finish of today's 90-lap contest. The first caution, on Lap 12, sent most of the field to the pits for the first of three planned stops. But it also created an opportunity for nine teams to elect to stay out and attempt to finish the race with just two stops.
Marco Andretti was one of those nine, and he led a race-high 58 laps. But the final caution flag he needed to make it to the finish came too late, and the Andretti Autosport driver was forced to make a third pit stop on Lap 82. Danica Patrick, Raphael Matos and Vitor Meira were others trying the two-stop strategy without success.
However, Team Penske's Castroneves and the Target/Chip Ganssia Racing duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti were all successful in their efforts to make the two-stop strategy work, and finished the day 1-2-3 as a reward.
But before he could enter Victory Circle, Castroneves had to fend off Dixon after the second and final caution of the day, on Lap 86 for rookie Simona de Silvestro's spin at Turn 5, bunched the field for a final three-lap sprint to the finish. Another driver to successfully complete the race on just two pit stops, HVM Racing's de Silvestro appeared headed for a top-ten finish until the spin dropped her to 21st.
Other highlights of the race included the intense battles for seventh - won by Justin Wilson over Tony Kanaan and Mike Conway - and the come-from-behind drives that netted 10th for Alex Tagliani (from 21st on the grid) and 11th for Dan Wheldon (from 23rd).
From the deep South, the IZOD IndyCar Series now heads to the West Coast, resuming next weekend on the streets of Southern California with the April 18 Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Helio Castroneves (#2 Team Penske Honda) started 3rd, finished 1st, 1st IZOD IndyCar Series win of 2010, 17th career win; 10th consecutive season with at least one victory: "I'm so happy. That was an incredible job from the entire team today. This race was all about strategy, and the biggest challenge was to keep up the pace while saving enough fuel to finish the race in two [pit] stops. We had to do something different today to beat [teammate] Will Power, and also Mike Conway, who was very strong at the start of the race. It was fantastic to race in front of all these fans in Alabama, and this is a great start to 2010 for our entire team."
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Racing Honda) started 5th, finished 2nd: "It was a good day, all-in-all, for the Target team with second and third, but I think it could have been even better. It was a little tough to be called for that penalty [passing before the start] when we dropped back and passed [Helio Castroneves] again in the run up to Turn 2. But sometimes that's racing and you've got to live with the calls made by the officials. After that, it was still a very tough race, managing your fuel while maintaining the race pace we needed at the front. We made the best of what we had today, and now I'm looking forward to Long Beach."
Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "With near-perfect weather, a great crowd, and an interesting strategic race, I thought today's race was a fine inaugural event for IndyCar fans here in Alabama. Will Power looked unstoppable after his excellent pole run on Saturday, but the strategy adopted by Helio Castroneves and others proved superior today. The Honda power assist definitely played a role in the outcome of the race, and Simona de Silvestro demonstrated that the new reverse gear can come in very handy following her late-race spin. It was great to see so many Honda associates from our Alabama plant and their families here, and we're looking forward to American Honda's 'home' event next week in Long Beach."
-source: honda racing