Clutch, Crash Spoil Monterey For Castro-Neves Laguna Seca -- It was one of those "good news-bad news" days in Sunday's Texaco Havoline 300 at Laguna Seca Raceway for Helio Castro-Neves and Bettenhausen Motorsports. For the second...
Clutch, Crash Spoil Monterey For Castro-Neves
Laguna Seca -- It was one of those "good news-bad news" days in Sunday's Texaco Havoline 300 at Laguna Seca Raceway for Helio Castro-Neves and Bettenhausen Motorsports.
For the second straight week, the 23-year-old driver of the Team Alumax Reynard/Mercedes-Benz owned by the Bettenhausen team was one of the fastest drivers in the race. On Lap 40, Castro-Neves recorded what at the time was the fastest lap of the race. When the checker fell for first-timewinner Brian Herta 43 laps later, Castro-Neves' good lap was the third best of the event, the 16th race of the CART FedEx Championship Series. That was the good news.
Unfortunately, that lap came after a spin on Lap 34 cost him nearly two laps to the leaders. He was running 14th and on the lead lap when he spun and rejoined the fray in 22nd position.
"It was a frustrating race," Castro-Neves said. "We were running pretty well at first, but going into Turn 1, I tried to downshift two gears and the clutch went. I had no warning--it just went. After I got restarted, I had no clutch for the rest of the race."
For Castro-Neves, the problems did not end there. Without a clutch, he stalled on his second pit stop. It cost him no positions, but dropped him a full two laps behind the leaders. The day ended on Lap 70 when he contact with Alex Barron damaged the rear of the car.
"I'm not really sure what happened," Castro-Neves continued."Everybody ahead had slowed up and I went left and all of the sudden, I got hit hard in the back of the car. It was probably that Alex (Barron) didn't see me."
After having a couple of good laps spoiled in Friday qualifying, Castro-Neves was still hopeful that Saturday's final qualifying sessionwould allow him to move up on the grid. Sadly, he never got run more than one hot lap, blowing the engine and then sitting out the rest of the session. He could have been sent out in the backup car, but there would have been less than four minutes to qualify and substituting cars would have negated his Friday qualifying effort. As it stood, he wound up 21st, only two spots down from Friday.
"The car was pretty good and I felt that we had a good setup for qualifying," Castro-Neves said. "I think we could have improved our position. Unfortunately, I was going through the corkscrew and had an engine problem. It's a shame, but I would rather have that happen in qualifying than in the race."
PIT NOTES: As promised, Helio Castro-Neves was awarded an Omega watch prior to the start of last Sunday's race. The award was given after Castro-Neves set the fastest race lap in the Molson Indy Vancouver event the week before. He became the first Bettenhausen Motorsports driver to earn this distinction.