Castroneves wins 86TH Indianapolis 500; first repeat since 1970-71. INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 26, 2002 â€“ Helio Castroneves became the first repeat winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 31 years as he captured the 86th edition of the â€œGreatest ...
Castroneves wins 86TH Indianapolis 500; first repeat since 1970-71.
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 26, 2002 – Helio Castroneves became the first repeat winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 31 years as he captured the 86th edition of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a suspenseful finish.
Castroneves is the first driver since Al Unser in 1970-71 to win this race in two consecutive years. Castroneves also became the first driver ever to win both of his first two career Indianapolis 500 starts.
“I did it; I did it again,” an emotional Castroneves said as he was handed the traditional winner’s bottle of milk. “It’s going to taste twice better. Guys, this is unbelievable. Guys, I love you.
“I have no words, man. I don’t know what to say anymore. This is just a dream come true.”
This was the record 12th Indianapolis 500 victory for team owner Roger Penske. Castroneves averaged 166.499 mph to earn the second consecutive Indy victory for Penske Racing.
Paul Tracy finished second with Felipe Giaffone third in a race that featured 19 lead changes among nine drivers. Alex Barron was the top-finishing rookie in fourth, with 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. fifth.
While the winner was the same, this was a very different finish from last year, when Castroneves held off teammate Gil de Ferran by 1.7373 seconds.
Castroneves won the race under caution after rookie Laurent Redon and 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier crashed exiting Turn 2 on Lap 199. At that time, Castroneves was under intense pressure from Tracy, who passed Castroneves in Turn 3 just after the caution period started. Drivers do not race back to the start-finish line after a caution starts in Indy Racing League competition.
Tracy actually took the white and yellow flags first under caution at the start of the final lap, with Castroneves trailing behind. Castroneves was shown the checkered flag at the end of Lap 200.
“The only reason he passed me, it’s because the yellow came on, and I lifted off,” Castroneves said. “No way he could pass me if it would be outside Turn 3 if we were still racing. So he might have passed me on the front straightaway because I was lifting off.”
Said Tracy: “I feel that I was ahead of him when it went yellow. I passed him, and I saw green.”
Team Green, which fields Tracy’s car, filed a protest of the official results. The protest will be heard at noon (EST) Monday, May 27 at the Indy Racing League office in Indianapolis.
The finish culminated a wild dash over the last 10 laps. Castroneves led Giaffone by 3.3482 seconds in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone on Lap 191, but many wondered whether Castroneves had enough fuel to finish the race. He made his last pit stop on Lap 158.
2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Giaffone pulled his No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone to within 2.0269 seconds of Castroneves on Lap 194, and the gap was sliced to 1.2465 seconds on Lap 195. On Lap 196, Giaffone pulled to within .4336 of a second.
Giaffone then tried to pass Castroneves in Turn 3 on Lap 197 but was rebuffed. During that failed pass attempt, Tracy snuck his No. 26 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone past Giaffone for second.
Tracy then stalked Castroneves, pulling to within .2244 of a second on Lap 198. Tracy was then setting up Castroneves for a possible winning pass in Turn 3 when the caution started due to the accident between Redon and Lazier. Redon was admitted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis with a concussion. He was awake, alert and in stable condition. Lazier was unhurt.
Rookie Tomas Scheckter led 85 laps, more than any other driver. Scheckter led by approximately 10 seconds when he crashed his No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone in Turn 4 on Lap 173. He was unhurt.
“I don’t want to say anything broke because I’m not certain,” Scheckter said. “I had no control over the car. It just went straight. It wouldn't turn.
The thing is, we could have won that. The thing was on cruise control.”
Castroneves took the lead for good on Lap 177 when leader Giaffone pitted. He led the last 24 laps, the only time he led during the race.
MBNA Pole winner Bruno Junqueira finished 31st after gearbox problems ended his race after 87 laps in the No. 22 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone.
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Junqueira said. “The car was fine except for the clutch during pit stops. The balance was good. We had no transmission problems, and the car seemed OK. I think I lost my gearbox, and that’s what caused the car to fail.”
Besides Redon, Lazier and Scheckter, 1999 IRL champion Greg Ray and rookies Tony Kanaan and Rick Treadway were eliminated in separate accidents. None of the drivers was hurt.
The next Indy Racing League event is the Boomtown 500 on June 8 at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s the first night race of the season.
Castroneves enters the event as the series points leader, with 195. de Ferran is second at 169, with Hornish third at 159. Defending IRL champion Hornish finished 25th, 14 laps down, after experiencing suspension problems caused by brushing the Turn 4 wall on Lap 74. He needed a lengthy pit stop for repairs.