Honda Racing Report Sunday, May 24, 2009 Indianapolis 500 Race Report Circuit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile oval) Speedway, IN 2008 Winner: Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) 143.567 mph average Weather: Hazy,...
Honda Racing Report
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Indianapolis 500 Race Report
Circuit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile oval) Speedway, IN
2008 Winner: Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) 143.567 mph average
Weather: Hazy, warm, humid, 86 degrees F
Castroneves Joins Ranks of Three-Time Indy Champions
In what can only be described as a Hollywood ending, Helio Castroneves emerged victorious at Sunday's Indianapolis 500, just weeks after being found innocent of federal income tax evasion charges that threatened his career and freedom.
Starting from the pole, Castroneves ran in the lead group through the 200-lap contest in his Team Penske Honda Dallara, but for the first 135 laps was often trailing the Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Then, a round of pit stops under caution moved Castroneves from fifth to second, and a bold pass of Dixon for the lead on the Lap 142 restart put Castroneves in the lead for the rest of the day.
For the fourth consecutive season, Honda powered the entire 33-car Indianapolis 500 starting field, and for a record-extending fourth consecutive year -- and the only four times in Indy 500 history -- there was not a single engine failure. In addition, 19 of the 20 cars running at the end of today's race were on the lead lap, another testament to Honda's efforts in providing reliable and equal IndyCar Series engines.
Following Castroneves across the finish line was Dan Wheldon of Panther Racing, who rebounded from a disappointing qualifying effort that left him 18th on the starting grid to capitalize on late-race problems for the Ganassi team and fend off a strong run from Danica Patrick for the runner-up position. For her part, Patrick's third-place effort was her best result in five Indianapolis starts.
Townsend Bell made the most of a one-off appearance for KV Racing, gaining 20 positions throughout the day as he finished fourth after starting 24th, with Will Power rounding out the top five finishers in his Team Penske entry. Although they combined to lead 123 of today's 200 laps, both Ganassi drivers saw their challenges fall short after pit-stop problems in the latter half of the race, leaving Dixon sixth and Franchitti seventh at the finish. Although he started 33rd, Alex Tagliani made improvements throughout the race to finish 11th and secure Indy "Rookie of the Year" honors.
In the one serious incident of the day, veteran Vitor Meira and rookie Raphael Matos touched wheels entering Turn 1 on Lap 173, sending Meira hard into the wall, with his A.J. Foyt Racing car turning up on its side and sliding along the south chute before coming to rest right-side up. Meira was awake and alert, but transported to Methodist Hospital for treatment of a lower back injury.
The 2009 IndyCar Series now heads to the Milwaukee Mile, the traditional short track followup to the "500", for the May 31 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, 3rd Indianapolis 500 victory, first three-time winner since Rick Mears in 1988, record 15th Indy 500 win for Team Penske: "Wow. That's exactly what I said inside my helmet on the victory lap. I had no words. It was a very special moment. It was a good race. We were behind early, but I knew what we had to do. And once I got in front, it was 'never look back.' What a day. This place is magical. It is still the 'beginning of the season' for me but everything is starting to fall into place. This is the best month of May, ever."
Dan Wheldon (#4 Panther Racing Honda) Started 18th, finished 2nd: "I'm incredibly proud of the Panther Racing/National Guard team. I thought they did an absolutely phenomenal job today; everything was executed perfectly. There's nothing more we could have done to win the race today. Without taking anything away from our team, we just didn't have enough for Helio [Castroneves] at the end. Honda and Firestone yet again gave everyone very consistent engines and tires."
Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's Indianapolis 500: "It was an exciting race, and I'm extremely proud of the effort put forth by our associates at HPD and technical partner Ilmor to continue Honda's record run of reliability here at Indy. Congratulations to Helio Castroneves and the Team Penske organization on their own incredible month of success, and our best wishes to Vitor Meira for a speedy recovery from his injuries. He certainly is a friend of Honda and we all hope to see him back in the A.J. Foyt Racing car soon."