Don’t Count Out Helio
Danica Patrick (No. 7 pictured with Marco Andretti) finished ninth after starting 17th will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR Championship Weekend (Nov. 20) (photo courtesy: Ron McQueeney, IndyCar Media)
Team Penske's gamble came up a winner Saturday as South Florida-resident Helio Castroneves relied on fuel strategy to capture the checkered flag at Kentucky for his second win of the season. With the victory, he jumped from fifth to fourth in the points standings for the 2010 IndyCar Championship, to be crowned Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Lock in your tickets NOW to see the IndyCar Champion crowned at Championship value: Tickets start at $30—with all kids 12 and under admitted FREE into general admission—and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
Castroneves pitted behind the rest of the field to make his final fuel stop on Lap 147 of 200, and the strategy played well as the rest of the field had to stop in the final laps. Entering Race 16 of 17 in Japan en route to Miami, Castroneves is 104 points out of the top spot and just 21 back of Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s third-place Scott Dixon.
"Things happen for a reason," said Castroneves. "We were running well. We weren't the fastest car, but we were running well. All of a sudden, we had an opportunity to try something. We didn't have much to lose."
Championship contender and 2010 points leader Will Power was in the hunt to capture his first victory on an oval, leading 83 laps before slipping back to fifth after nearly hitting the wall late in the race.
"I thought it was done then," Power said of the incident. "That's when I lost a lot of positions, but then I lost some more. I went into fuel-saving mode and wasn't quite as aggressive. We led plenty of laps. I'm going to get it one day."
Power maintained his Championship points lead in the standings by finishing eighth and now leads Dario Franchitti—who captured the 2009 crown in Miami last fall—by 17 points in the overall standings. Be there when the Champion is crowned in Miami Oct. 2, and catch Championship racing at Championship value with tickets starting at $30. All kids 12 and under are admitted FREE to general admission. For tickets and more information, call (866) 409-RACE or log on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
Danica Patrick finished ninth after starting 17th and in the process set an IZOD IndyCar Series record by running at the finish for the 31st consecutive race. Motorsports’ first lady will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20)—and a special “Double the Danica” ticket package is available here.
Said Patrick: "That was a lot of work for a ninth-place finish. I had a good car all night and was running with the lead pack the entire time. Right before the final pit stop I was in the Top 6, so I thought it would end up playing out that way."
Florida resident Dan Wheldon turned in another stellar result at Kentucky, narrowly missing victory while leading a race-high 93 laps in his second-straight podium finish. He led the race until Lap 53, when the field began pulling in for green-flag stops, and recaptured it after another round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 144. He was uncontested for the lead until competitors had to pit for a splash of fuel in the final five laps of the race.
"When I beat Dario out of the pits on our final fuel stop, I thought, 'This is it,'” said Wheldon. “But then obviously Team Penske had pulled another one of their tricks and got us on that one.”
After a poor qualifying run, South Florida resident Tony Kanaan (see sidebar) started 26th in the 27-car field but wasted little time moving forward in the field, picking up an amazing 10 positions on the first lap alone. His tenacious driving combined with flawless pit stops netted Kanaan a fourth-place finish.
"I promised my fans on Twitter I would pass 11 cars on the first lap; it was only 10,” Kanaan said post-race. “I apologize to all of my followers that I couldn't do it. It was a great race."
Kanaan then added: "Dan Wheldon deserved to win this one. Racing is never fair, but that's the way it is."
Next up, the IndyCar Championship contenders head to Motegi, Japan, on Sept. 19 (Midnight ET, VERSUS TV)—Race 16 of 17 en route to the NextEra Energy Indy Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 1-2). Lock in your tickets NOW to see the IndyCar Champion crowned at Championship value: Tickets start at $30—with all kids 12 and under admitted FREE into general admission—and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
Open It Up: South Florida’s IndyCar Drivers
"We fell on the wrong side of the strategy,"
--South Beach-resident Marco Andretti, after a sixth-place finish in Race 16 of 17 en route to Miami for Championship Weekend
Marco Andretti continues his strong showing on the ovals—a good sign for the South Beach resident en route to running on his “home track” oval of Homestead-Miami Speedway during IndyCar Championship Weekend Oct. 1-2. He led Andretti Autosport drivers in qualifying (15th) and wasted no time making his way to the front—passing seven drivers on the first lap alone—and running as high as third before finishing sixth.
"The Meijer car wasn't as strong in traffic as we needed it to be," Andretti said post-race. “I wasn't able to work my magic on the high line, and we fell on the wrong side of the strategy. It's still nice to be able to finish inside the Top 10, but after running in the Top 3 for most of the night I was hoping for more out of the finish."
Somewhat amazingly, it wasn’t Andretti passing seven drivers on Lap 1 that stole the show: Teammate and South Florida-neighbor Tony Kanaan qualified 26th and put on his own clinic on Lap 1, passing 10 cars before the oval was rounded once.
"It was a great race,” Kanaan said post-race. “I promised my fans on Twitter that I was going to pass 11 cars on the first lap and I only got 10, so I want to apologize to all of my 'followers' that I couldn't do it. But it was a great race.
“I worked with Marco and Ryan [Hunter-Reay] so well; it was fun. Congratulations to Helio [Castroneves, South Florida resident and race winner], but I don't really like strategy races. I think Dan deserved this one, but it is what it is."
Boca Raton-native Hunter-Reay's finish of 21st ended his streak of eight consecutive Top 5 finishes after a mechanical issue forced him from the race.
"We had a great day going,” the Boca Raton-native said post-race. “We went from 27th to the Top 5, and were just biding our time. I liked the clean air there, working with my teammates. We tucked in line, were just waiting to fight it out at the end and had a problem in the right rear that ended our night. It's unfortunate.”
Hunter-Reay remains in sixth place in the IndyCar Series Championship standings, which will be decided Oct. 2 on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway. Lock in your tickets NOW to see the IndyCar Champion crowned at Championship value: Tickets start at $30—with all kids 12 and under admitted FREE into general admission—and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
The pursuit of a Miami Championship continues at Motegi, Japan on Sept. 19 (Midnight ET, VERSUS TV)—Race 16 of 17 en route to the Next Era Energy Indy Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 1-2).
How South Florida drivers fared in Race 15 of 17 en route to Championship Weekend in Miami:
1. Helio Castroneves
4. Tony Kanaan
6. Marco Andretti
16. Raphael Matos
18. Mario Moraes
19. Milka Duno
21. Ryan Hunter-Reay
23. Vitor Meira
26. E.J. Viso