Helio Castroneves is the senior driver among the IndyCar competitors. He has been with Team Penske since 2000. He started in the IndyCar series in 2001 and is the only race car driver in history to win his first 2 starts in the Indy 500. The 42-year-old Brazilian now has 30 career wins, 3 with the Indy 500. Until last Sunday, however, his last victory had been at the second leg of the 2014 Dual at Detroit on June 1st of that year. Helio has a most enviable record of top 5 and top 10 finishes during that time period, with 20 top 5 finishes, including 13 podium finishes. But there had been no victories for three years.
With the resources that Castroneves has at hand you would have thought that there would be many more. But with teammates like Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagnand, and now Joseph Newgarden, there is a great deal of top line talent in the Penske stable. Will Power has been particularly aggressive in the win column with 29 victories since joining the team in 2009.There are those who are of the opinion that Power has sailed past Castroneves as the Captain’s number one driver. There have also been whispers that Helio was on the hot seat, and that the team was considering his retirement at the end of the season. The only honor that Castroneves has not acquired during his IndyCar career is to be the series champion. He wants to win a No. 1 before anything like a retirement may be considered. He also wants another Indy 500 win to add to his trophy case. He has openly said that he wants to be the first 5 time winner at Indy. Who knows? He is still the youngest driver to win 3 and the 3rd win was in his 10th Indy start.
Last Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton Iowa, was a big win for Castroneves. He dominated from the green to the checkered flag. He started next to teammate Will Power and quickly took control. He showed his old dominance as he raced on a warm Iowa afternoon. The former DWTS champ led 217 of the races 300 laps and was never out of contention. His win put him within 8 points of series point leader Scott Dixon with 6 races to go. After taking the checkered flag he stopped on the start/finish line, jumped out of his car, performed his traditional victory safety fence climb, then beat his chest at the top. The crowd loved it! This was also a first for Team Penske. The Captain has never gotten a win at this track before.
J. R. Hildebrand finished second and tied his best IndyCar career finish since he finished behind Dan Wheldon in the 2010 Indy 500 and was Rookie of the Year.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was third and Will Power was fourth. All were driving Chevy-powered cars. Graham Rahal in 5th was the top finishing Honda. Chevy has started to shake off the problems of the first half of the series, yet Honda still holds a 6 to 5 win advantage for the manufacturer’s championship but there are still six races to go for 2017. It’s really going to be exciting! The next race is this coming Sunday the 16th at the Exhibition Place Road Course in Toronto, Canada.
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