WALL CONTACT PUTS CASTRO-NEVES, TEAM ALUMAX OUT AT NAZARETH NAZARETH, Pa. (April 27)--The weekend had a very promising start. But it ended with rain that delayed the race by a day and a frustrating a 23rd-place finish. ...
WALL CONTACT PUTS CASTRO-NEVES, TEAM ALUMAX OUT AT NAZARETH
NAZARETH, Pa. (April 27)--The weekend had a very promising start. But it ended with rain that delayed the race by a day and a frustrating a 23rd-place finish.
Helio Castro-Neves was running 18th in Monday’s rain-delayed Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix at the Nazareth Speedway, but his day ended on Lap 64 when the Team Alumax Reynard/Mercedes-Benz struck the wall between turns 3 and 4. Castro-Neves was unhurt and credited with 23rd position in the race.
“It was very unfortunate to end the race this way,” Castro-Neves said. “This is a very tight track and we were all running close together. Michael Andretti (the race leader) had just lapped me, but I was able to stay with him. I was trying to get my lap back when he cut in front of me going into Turn 3. That made me lose the downforce and I hit the wall. It was just a racing accident.”
Castro-Neves had started the race in 19th position, but Adrian Fernandez’s accident on the opening lap brought out the yellow. The Team Alumax driver slowed for the caution, but was passed by three drivers and found himself in 22nd position.
When the race restarted, the 22-year-old Brazilian settled in and began to move up in the standings. He passed Michel Jourdain Jr. for 21st on Lap 35 and got by Dario Franchitti a lap later. Two laps later he passed Al Unser Jr. for 19th and on Lap 44 he was 18th after passing Mark Blundell. He stayed ahead of Andretti until Lap 51 when the local favorite got by to put him down a lap. Even so, Castro-Neves managed to stay right on Andretti’s tail until Lap 64.
However, that was not the high point of the weekend.
The Team Alumax entry and Castro-Neves were quick from the start as the rookie driver was fourth fastest in the Friday morning practice session and then quickest overall for the day after a splendid performance in the afternoon session.
“I told them not to touch the car because it was so good,” Castro-Neves said. “Tom Brown knows this track very well and I knew we would have a good car when we arrived here.”
Unfortunately, a problem with Goodyear’s tire designated for Nazareth resulted in a switch to the tire used at Motegi, Japan. Predictably, the switch could be noted in the Saturday morning practice when Firestone-shod cars held the top five positions. Castro-Neves wound up 14th, although a good part of the session was devoted to a race setup to make sure the new tires would last.
Castro-Neves then qualified at 19.11 seconds, good for an average speed of 178.210 miles per hour and 19th position.
“I thought I had a much better lap because I was flat out in Turn 2 for the first time all weekend,” Castro-Neves said. “Obviously, we were all disappointed after running so well on Friday.”
Team director Tom Brown explained that the skid plate on the underside of the car needed to be replaced before the qualifying run and the car had actually bottomed out in Turn 2 allowing Castro-Neves to go flat out, but costing him some speed as well.
“We did not adjust the ride height of the car for the new skid plate and that was my mistake,” Brown said. “It’s something we will remember when we come back next year and something I feel bad about.”
PIT NOTES: Castro-Neves’ performance Friday marked the second time a Bettenhausen Motorsports entry has been fastest at the end of the day. Last year at Milwaukee, Patrick Carpentier was quickest on Friday.