SONOMA, Calif. (August 24, 2008) -- Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, earned his first win the 2008 IndyCar Series season in Sunday's PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County, completing a...
SONOMA, Calif. (August 24, 2008) -- Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, earned his first win the 2008 IndyCar Series season in Sunday's PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County, completing a dramatic week for Team Penske.
After the team lost both primary race cars, equipment and more in a transporter fire that occurred early Wednesday morning as the team was en route to Infineon Raceway, Castroneves, teammate Ryan Briscoe and the entire Team Penske crew rolled up their sleeves, determined not to let the fire deter them. The team worked together to rebuild and place two backup machines at the front of the starting grid - with Castroneves on the pole and Briscoe second.
Then, once the green flag flew on Sunday afternoon, the team's hard work really paid off - both Castroneves and Briscoe led the race but in the end, it was Castroneves who captured the checkered flag 5.29 seconds ahead of his teammate for his first win since the 2007 St. Petersburg race.
"People kept telling me the door would finally open, and today we broke through it," said Castroneves, who not only broke his string of seven second-place finishes in 2008, but recorded his 10th win in 35 starts from the pole position, a staggering 29 percent winning average when starting first. "The door was really stuck for awhile, but it was an incredible effort by Team Penske. I can't thank them enough. ... You're talking about two days' work in 12 hours. When you see guys doing that, you just want to do your best for them."
The Brazilian driver knew even prior to the green flag that he had the car to beat in Sunday's 80-lap event. Before the race, an ABC/ESPN cameraman asked Castroneves where he would celebrate - seeing as how there was no catch fence near the start/finish line, only a short fence below the grandstand. "I told them where I was going to go," said Castroneves. "Ask the cameraman. He was like, 'Hey, I don't want to jinx it, but where are you going to be climbing the fence?' I'm like, 'Right there. Make sure you wait for me there.'"
Castroneves scaled the front of the grandstand and dived into the arms of waiting fans.
The victory, the first for Castroneves and Team Penske at the challenging 2.245-mile permanent road coarse in California wine country, was more than a remarkable story about the dedication and effort of Team Penske's crew; it also put Castroneves back in the thick of the IndyCar Series championship with two races remaining in the 2008 season. Castroneves is now just 43 points behind series leader Scott Dixon with just two championship points races - Detroit and Chicago - remaining in the 2008 season.
Ryan Briscoe, in his backup No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, finished in second spot and not only was thrilled for teammate Castroneves, but for what the Team Penske crew was able to accomplish. "It's unbelievable," said Briscoe. "To start the week off the way we did, with the fire and everything, and then dominate with a one-two qualifying and race result, it's definitely the strongest we've been all year. I'm so happy for Helio. Not getting a win all year and getting all of those seconds was killing him. So I'm really happy for him to win the race. He was the quickest car out there today. It's just great for the team. Big congrats to Team Penske."
The team was tired after four of the hardest days they've had at the track, but everyone had their heads held high in the end. "This result shows the determination of the group that we have and the depth of the team," said Penske Racing president Tim Cindric. "For those guys to do such a good job that we qualify first and second and finish first and second is amazing. It wasn't as easy as I wanted it to be, but it worked out in the end."