IRL: Helio Castroneves hungry for streets

Helio Castroneves earned his first Indy-style victory on the streets of Detroit and is counting on the St. Petersburg, FL roads to be just as kind to the driver of Marlboro Team Penske's ...

Helio Castroneves earned his first Indy-style victory on the streets of Detroit and is counting on the St. Petersburg, FL roads to be just as kind to the driver of Marlboro Team Penske's #3 Dallara/Toyota/Firestone challenger.

Currently third in the point chase after two races, Castroneves is "super excited to be racing at St. Petersburg" this weekend in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Indy Racing League's first race to entail both left and right turns. "I think after five laps we'll all be right-on with this track. I expect good things here," he said.

Castroneves forecasts "more action for the fans to follow, with drivers trying to pass, running close to the walls, up-shifting, downshifting, all of that. On street and road courses," he recalled, "you have to go 90 percent because if you go 100 percent, you'll hit the walls," Castroneves laughed.

Although he's never raced at St. Pete the Brazilian thinks the track is "wide, but you still have to stay off those walls." Despite racing only on ovals since the beginning of 2003, Castroneves thinks he's properly prepared for this new challenge.

"I think the new qualifying procedures will be big-time interesting because of the nature of street racing," Castroneves explained. "Starting position is so important on these tracks and qualifying should present a lot of drama as everybody tries to make the top six.

"The 10-minute shootout should be a lot of fun for those guys and I expect to be one of those guys," the ebullient Castroneves declared. "Pole position should be a great opportunity for a driver because it's so important to start up front."

While most of his peers have a great deal of road racing experience there are some whose time turning right as well as left are limited. "It will be a new environment for these drivers and we'll use practice to find out how they react on the track," Castroneves stated.

"Some might not have enough experience; it should be interesting. We won't do things any differently at Marlboro Team Penske; well make sure the car is well balanced for both qualifying and the race."

Castroneves envisions plenty of passes over the weekend as drivers get comfortable with their road-race-ready Panoz and Dallara chassis. The move to single point refueling has already been in play for two events and that part of the package's changes is familiar to teams and drivers.

"I think the drivers who get off the corners well will be tough to pass and that's another reason why you want to start at or near the front of the field," he said. "I know most of these guys - there are six, seven or even eight drivers who are the cream of this crop - and they are all very fast. I'm going to focus on my team and do what's best for my car."

It's been a long time since Castroneves turned right but at one time "all the ovals were a challenge for me. These road and street races will be like anew flavor of ice cream: I can't wait to taste it!"

What he and his team have learned in the past should apply for this race in St. Petersburg on April 3rd, Castroneves allowed. "I never ran St. Pete so I don't know the track that well. It will be a step-by-step procedure to get acclimated. I think it's going to be good, tight race on Sunday. We have a good group of drivers and I think we'll put on a great show."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves
Teams Team Penske