Rookie Castro-Neves Ready For Fontana Fontana, CA (October 27, 1998) -- With nearly a full season behind him, Helio Castro-Neves can say that he has at least one CART FedEx Championship Series race on a superspeedway under his belt. Because ...
Rookie Castro-Neves Ready For Fontana
Fontana, CA (October 27, 1998) -- With nearly a full season behind him, Helio Castro-Neves can say that he has at least one CART FedEx Championship Series race on a superspeedway under his belt. Because of that, the driver of the Team Alumax Reynard/Mercedes-Benz entered by Bettenhausen Motorsports has a better idea of what to expect having gone the distance in July's U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway, a carbon copy of the California Speedway, site of the Nov. 1 season-ending Marlboro 500 (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET).
And the 23-year-old Brazilian rookie feels he has something to prove after a black-flag stop took him out of contention in July and played a major role in the 12th-place finish he was able to muster despite the setback. "We had a good race car that day and it is simply one of those unfortunate things that sometimes happens," Castro-Neves said. "The track officials felt that my car was smoking and I was given the black flag. Because it came during a green-flag period, we lost a lot of time. I don't know how well we would have finished without the black flag, but I can tell you that we were better than 12th!"
Team owner Tony Bettenhausen agrees. "You can't fault the officials because you did have a safety issue there," Bettenhausen said. "But our car was not smoking or leaking when we came into the pits and we were able to finish the race on a pace comparable to the leaders. Helio wasn't that far from the lead pack when the race ended. But that's behind us and we want to finish the season on a high note."
So, will Fontana be a repeat of July's 500-mile epic at Michigan? "I think if you look at the closeness of the field in each raceand then add the effect the Handford wing had on the cars at Michigan, it is definitely possible," Castro-Neves said. "We could run together and that obviously made it more exciting for the fans. I also feel that I personally learned a lot during that race and I'm grateful we could go the distance that day in order for me to learn. Now, I feel I am ready to be as competitive as anyone in the field."
PIT NOTES: Castro-Neves can start a history at California Speedway for the Bettenhausen team with this race by being the first on the team to qualify for the race. Last year at the inaugural event, the team was forced to withdraw after Patrick Carpentier suffered a concussion in a Friday practice crash. After debating whether or not to have Roberto Moreno substitute for the third straight race, the decision was made to simply withdraw instead giving Moreno limited practice time before qualifying.
Source: CART Online