Hello, Helio: What a Difference a Year Makes

Helio Wins at Barber Motorsports Park

South Florida’s Helio Castroneves had quite the newsworthy ’09….

Last spring, he missed the 2009 season opener tending to personal issues; in May, he became the first foreign-born driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500 three times; and in October in South Florida, he finished fourth in the race for the 2009 IndyCar Series Championship.

And the 2010 IndyCar Series season—which again will conclude at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall (Oct. 1-2)—the dancing driver is again in the headlines, as he took the checkered flag in Race 3 at Alabama. With the victory, Castroneves snapped a two-race winning streak of Penske teammate Will Power, who entered the race in Alabama with hopes of achieving what no IndyCar driver ever has done: wins in the first three races of a season.

The win was Castroneves’ first time on a road/street course race since August 2008 and put him just 32 points back of Power in the series Championship standings. It was Race 3 of 17 en route to the IndyCar Series crowning its 2010 Champions at Homestead-Miami Speedway the weekend of Oct. 1-2. For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

The win gave Castroneves a record-setting 10th season with at least one win and his 10th consecutive season with at least one victory, also an IZOD IndyCar Series record. Next up, an April 18th race through the streets of Long Beach (3:30 p.m. EST on VERSUS TV, IMS Radio Network, XM Ch. 145 and Sirius Ch. 211).

“I can’t wait to go back to Long Beach,” said Castroneves, who made his 2009 debut there. “I have great memories of winning in 2001 and then returning last year after a missing [the season-opening] race. Now this year, after winning just this past weekend in Alabama, Team Penske and I are super excited to be back in Long Beach. It’s going to be a great show for the fans.”

Last year, fellow Penske-pilot Power started from the pole and finished second in the No. 12 Team car, just two days after relinquishing the seat of the No. 3 Team Penske entry back to Castroneves, who finished seventh in his first race of the season. Power recently reflected on last year at Long Beach, the difficult circumstances surrounding Team Penske and his runner-up finish.

"It was a great day,” said Power. “We had no radio and no telemetry, so I was doing it off the steering wheel and off the pit board.”

Last spring at Long Beach, Dario Franchitti—en route to being crowned 2009 IndyCar Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway last fall –drove a strong race and benefitted from two well-timed pit stops to win. The victory was the ninth of Franchitti's career and the 25th for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Danica Patrick—who will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20)—drove to a fourth-place finish at Long Beach in 2009, sparking a run of four-straight Top 5 results.

"Long Beach is a challenging race, but I'm up for it,” said Patrick, who sits 83 points back of series-leader Power. “It's been a rough start to the season, no question, with all the road and street courses. But the whole GoDaddy.com crew has been working really hard to get us where we want to be, and hopefully we can start to turn things around this weekend."

With the victory in Alabama and his rise in the Championship standings, Castroneves is eyeing winning an IndyCar Series Championship, as well as the Indy 300 race Oct. 2, on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami.

Castroneves, Patrick, Franchitti, Power and the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami on Sunday, April 18, in Race 4 at Long Beach (3:30 p.m. EST on VERSUS TV, IMS Radio Network, XM Ch. 145 and Sirius Ch. 211). Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway the weekend of Oct. 1-2. For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

Open It Up: South Florida’s Indy Drivers

Helio

Helio Castroneves claimed victory in Race 3 of 17 en route to the IndyCar Series crowning its 2010 Champions at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 1-2), and South Beach-resident Marco Andretti finished a season-best fifth after leading 58 of 90 laps. But it was a tough afternoon for some of their neighboring South Florida IndyCar pilots, as seven of the 10 finished outside the Top 10.

"After the race in Barber I'm really optimistic for Long Beach this weekend,” said Andretti. “I think we're on to something with the Venom car.”

Boca Raton native Ryan Hunter-Reay, will pull double-duty at Long Beach this weekend, running in both the IZOD IndyCar Series for Andretti Autosport and in the American Le Mans Series for Level 5 Motorsports. Hunter-Reay sits seventh in the IndyCar Series Championship standings after a 12th-place finish in Alabama.

"I guess I'm 'old school’—I'd rather be racing than doing anything else,” said Hunter-Reay. “So if I have a chance to run another during the weekend, that's fine with me."

Key Biscayne resident Tony Kanaan heads to Long Beach ranked ninth in the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship standings, as he also eyes racing for a title on his “home track” at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2.

"I'm very excited for Long Beach,” said Kanaan. “Team 7-Eleven is much better than what you see in our results from the first three races, and I think the same could be said for the whole Andretti Autosport team.”

South Florida residents E.J. Viso and Mario Moraes headline the KV Racing Technology contingent at Long Beach, and both young racers figure to be strong on the “Left Coast.”

Viso was impressive in qualifying last year with a season-best fourth starting position. And at St. Petersburg this year, he was leading the race when a parts failure cost him a chance for his first IndyCar win.

"After St. Pete, I can say we have a pretty strong car on street circuits, and hopefully we are going to have an even better one here,” said Viso. “Coming from a difficult and hard weekend at Barber, I know we have learned a lot, and every time we gather more data so I am sure the PDVSA - KV Racing Technology will have a good weekend in Long Beach."

Moraes, the youngest full-time driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series at age 21, turned in his best 2010 run last week at Barber after qualifying 12th.

"I am looking forward to being back at Long Beach,” said Moraes. “It's going to be my second race with my new engineer [Iain Watt], and now we know each other better. I'm understanding better how he works, so hopefully the team and I will have a good finish after all the hard work the guys have put in."

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