Chasing History: South Florida’s Castroneves

Castroneves Goes for Four

Last weekend, Castroneves (center) claimed his fourth Indy 500 pole position and Sunday will lead the field to the green flag in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. To win, Castroneves will have to beat Team Penske teammate Will Power (right) and reigning IndyCar Champ Dario Franchitti (left) (photo courtesy: Robert Laberge, Getty Images Sport)

South Florida resident Helio Castroneves has a nice view of potential history as the polesitter for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500: The reigning Indy 500 Champion is seeking to join IndyCar legends Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser as the only four-time Indianapolis 500 winners in history.

In addition to adding his name to the list of IndyCar immortals, Castroneves would like to join another distinguished list: that of Indy 500 winners who also have gone on to win the IndyCar Series Championship, which this fall will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2. Tickets to see IndyCar’s Champion crowned in Miami go on sale July 3 (renewal deadline is June 15). For more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon are the only drivers who have won the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Championship in the same year. Last weekend, Castroneves claimed his fourth Indy 500 pole position and Sunday will lead the field to the green flag in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I feel blessed to be in this situation,” Castroneves said after taking the top spot in qualifying. “What an honor it would be to join those incredible drivers with four victories. Sometimes the odds go against you, and sometimes it's meant to be.”

Count team owner Chip Ganassi among those hoping to spoil the party for Castroneves. A victory by one of his drivers—2008 IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon or defending IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti, crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway last October —would make Ganassi the first team owner to win two of American auto racing's marquee races in the same calendar year, as Jamie McMurray won this year’s Daytona 500.

"Here, you know, there's an excellent chance to win," said a confident Dixon, who won the IndyCar race earlier in May at Kansas.

Danica Patrick—who will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20)—will start from the 25th position. IndyCar’s most-popular driver, the NASCAR part-timer was booed at Indianapolis earlier in May after pinning blame for a poor qualifying run on her crew.

"I say one confident thing out there—that it's not me—and everybody boos me," Patrick said. "I don't know, maybe they were booing me before, but some of them were probably cheering for me before. I'm not a different driver than I was five years ago."

Patrick, Castroneves, Dixon, Franchitti and the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami on Sunday in Race 6 of 17 en route to IndyCar Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 2). Tickets to see IndyCar’s Champion crowned in Miami go on sale July 3 (renewal deadline is June 15). For more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

This Sunday’s Indy 500 will start at 12 p.m. EST and be broadcast on ABC-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 during the NextEra Energy IndyCar Championships (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

TK Prepares for First Oval of the Season

After qualifying three cars in the Top 10 for the 2009 Indy 500, Andretti Autosport’s top qualifier this year is South Beach-resident Marco Andretti, in the 16th position. But no one had a tougher effort than Key Biscayne-resident Tony Kanaan. The IndyCar veteran crashed twice before recovering to qualify next to last for Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

After the drama, Kanaan said: “I think we had a good car. We didn't have a shot for the pole, but we had a car to be in the Top 9 easy. I was a little bit too greedy.

“It was a crash, [but] we were able to fix the car. I had the rear end of the Hunter race car, Danica's engine cover, Marco's front wing, and it didn't fit very well in the car….We knew we were going to lose some speed.”

Also among Andretti Autosport’s five 2010 Indy 500 qualifiers is Boca Raton-native Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will start 17th.

Miami-resident Mario Moraes experienced a roller-coaster ride in his two qualifying attempts. In the first effort, he recorded three solid 224-mph laps but crashed in Turn 2.

“After the crash on the last lap in the first qualifying attempt, our KV Racing crew did an amazing job to get my car back onto the track in about an hour,” Moraes said. “My car was sliding around too much in the first attempt. We lost some downforce for that attempt.”

Moraes' car was pushed back in the qualifying line for one last-chance dash. The 21-year-old pilot didn't disappoint with a superb four-lap qualifying run at 224.888 mph as the final gun went off to end the qualifying session. Moraes will start 13th.

Here is where South Florida’s IndyCar drivers qualified for Sunday’s Indy 500:

1. Helio Castroneves
12.Raphael Matos                                                      
13.Mario Moraes                                                      
16.Marco Andretti
17.Ryan Hunter-Reay
18.Dan Wheldon
19.EJ Viso
25.Bruno Junqueira   
27.Mario Romancini
30.Vitor Meira
33. Tony Kanaan

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