Helio Castroneves wins third Indy 500
No bad weather. No Split. No field fillers. A huge infield crowd. Jim Nabors in good health. No excuses. The result? A big crowd, a three-time winner, and perhaps the best race in recent history.
When the green flew again, the race settled into a classic Indy mid-race epic. Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti put on an exhibition, while the rest of the field sorted itself out according to luck, strategy, and a nice beer run ensued for the next 20 or so laps.
On lap 83 Davey Hamilton's day came to an end with a crash in turn 4. Hamilton had just made a report to his crew that the car was very loose when the rear stepped out for the last time. “We were good for a while. Then the back end kept stepping out. We were running too much downforce and got up in the marbles. The balance of car was getting a bit loose getting in. We were making some adjustments, and I was just taking my time getting my pace back. I got loose getting into (Turn) 3. I had to chase it back up, got in the marbles, and that was it. As soon as you get out of the groove, you’re done.”
On lap 90 the green flag flew again, with a resumption of the Franchitti domination. Scott Dixon was in second, and Tony Kanaan was charging hard in third, soon taking second. Paul Tracy was in 4th, Oriol Servia in 6th, and Raphael Matos in 8th. Beyond the top 2-3 drivers, it was beginning to be clear that there were many contenders who weren't wearing red uniforms.
At the same time, Rahal Letterman Racing's dream day ended when Servia's car suddenly lost power with a fuel pressure issue. “We were having the best race ever. The engine completely shut off on the backstretch... I had a lot of fun while it lasted.”
When the pits stop ended at the halfway mark, Dixon lead Franchitti, followed by Will Power, Raphael Matos and Helio Castroneves.
The green flag flew on lap 109, with another Dixon - Franchitti duel, until Nelson Philippe joined the growing number of drivers to end his day at turn 4.
On lap 109, another round of the Dixon - Franchitti duel ensued, and with Kanaan out of the way, it looked again like it would be their to settle. However, on lap 132 the racing gods had different plans. It started when Nelson Philippe hit the wall in -- you guessed it -- turn 4. During the ensuing pit stops, Matos had a slow pit stop due to a stuck wheel nut, and Franchitti almost drove away with the fuel hose still attached. Worse yet, Vitor Meira's car caught fire, totally engulfing him in flames. The fire was put out in under 5 seconds, and Vitor drove away, but no doubt there was water in Vitor's seat area as well as a few beats missing from his heart rate. Franchitti's car was not the same while in traffic, and he got into battles with other drivers, and he never challenged again for the lead. He finished 7th, having lead 50 laps.
When the green flew again, Helio took the lead from Dixon, the 1000th in the history of the Indy 500. At the 150 lap mark Castroneves lead #9 Dixon by .6667 of a second.
After the long caution, the green flag flew on lap 183, and from that point Castroneves simply set sail for the win. Wheldon (in Meira's former ride) was solidly in second, having fought off a challenge from Danica. Both Danica and Wheldon admitted that they didn't have anything for Helio after the race. Wheldon, though, was satisfied with this run, saying that the race was executed "perfectly" by the Panther Racing team. "We came up with something on Carb Day" he later commented, and no doubt it rescued what had been a frustrating month.
However, at his age, racing gods willing, Helio will have another chance to find it again.
MARIO MORAES (No. 5 Azul Tequila-Votorantim-KV Racing): "I don't know. I'm really upset with what happened. I don't know what Marco was doing there. That lap was the first. Just the first corner he was outside. I don't know if he knew, but this was the 500 miles race. I don't know if there was any point in what he did. Unfortunately, my spotter didn't tell me that he was looking outside, and I was just driving my line and when I realized, I was in the wall."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 21 IZOD/WilliamRast/Vision Racing): "A.J. Foyt IV was really loose and checked up in Turn 3 and 4. I followed him in there too closely, and that's my fault. I got a big aero wash, and I was a passenger from there on. That put me in the grey and into the wall. The Vision 21 IZOD crew fought so hard all month, and we were finally in a position that we were going to have a race where the positions were going to come to us with some patience. They already were. It's a shame to have to have that happen trying to get around a car that's almost disabled, but I guess that's Indy."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): "We all caught traffic, basically. Milka (Duno) got in front of me, and she was absolutely clueless. She would go low like she was going to let everybody by, but then she'd go fast enough where you can't get by her. She come out on track and run you real tight. I tried to go half a car width up in (Turn) 4, and it just went straight. Same thing I had last year. I'm really upset and disappointed. The McDonald's car was feeling good. We had the pace to stay with the leaders. We couldn't get close enough to pass, but still it's disappointing."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 17 The Rahal Letterman DAFCA Special): "We were having the best race ever. The engine completely shut off on the backstretch. I have explanation. I had a lot of fun while it lasted."
DAVEY HAMILTON (No. 44 Hewlett Packard): "We were good for a while. Then the back end kept stepping out. We were running too much downforce and got up in the marbles. The balance of car was getting a bit loose getting in. We were making some adjustments, and I was just taking my time getting my pace back. I got loose getting into (Turn) 3. I had to chase it back up, got in the marbles, and that was it. As soon as you get out of the groove, you're done."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): "I don't know. Something broke in the middle of the straightaway. I hit head-on on the wall. I don't think the cameras caught that on the first hit, and then I went for a wild ride. I rest my head on the headrest and closed my eyes. I knew it was going to be a big one. I'm pretty much beat up. I have to thank my guys and the championship people who have kept me in shape. And thank you to the safety team. I hit the wall at 190 mph, and I'm standing here talking to you. I'm a little sore, and I'm going to be sore tomorrow. Something broke in the rear suspension at 190 miles an hour, and I have to thank the safety crew that I can walk back to my motorhome."
ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "It's been a very tough day for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. We were looking really good, but then unfortunately Tomas Scheckter was just too excited going into Turn 1. He passed me really late and left me nowhere to go. On the marbles, we just brushed the wall and bent the wishbone. So we had to go back to the garage, but we got out again. Something else bent again on the right rear, so we'll call it a day."
NELSON PHILIPPE (No. 00 i drive green HVM Racing): "It's just a shame. I thought we had a good race. I tried giving too much room. It was a light hit, but it was enough."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy): "It's totally disappointing. I should have been smarter than that. That kid (Moraes) is in way over his head with where he is now. I'm sitting next to him, and he just drives up into me. There was no one in sight of him. I should have known better."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "This is incredible. I think my tears speak for everything. What a great team. I just have to thank, first of all, the Lord for giving me this opportunity, to be strong, to have a family that I have. I have to think Roger (Penske), Tim (Cindric), my guys, Phillip Morris, all the associates (sponsors), Verizon, everybody because they gave my life back. I'm here today because of those guys. And obviously the fans. You guys don't understand. You guys kept me strong. You guys are the best. I'm honored to have fans like you. Thank you so much. Let's celebrate now. We were having all sorts of problems with the radio since the beginning of the race. And then, we had a little issue with the gearbox on the pit stops. I was getting neutral. I had to change for a mechanical. Finally, toward the end, we were just feeling the car. I didn't touch anything on the car at all. Basically, it was a long race. We were just taking it easy. It was good, actually, because behind I knew what I needed to do. But once I got in the front, it was never look back. What a day. This place is magical. It was beginning of the season, but things are starting to fall into place. This is the best month of May ever. Wow. Three. I can't believe it." (More Castroneves to come in transcript)
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): "I'm incredibly excited. Unfortunately we didn't have quite enough for Helio (Castroneves) and the whole Penske organization. They should be very proud. I have to say, there's not many races that I've done in my career where I can honestly say that the team executed 100 percent. And I have to say they did today. The National Guard Panther Racing pit crew were phenomenal. They made my job incredibly easy all day because they made me spot after spot in the pits. It's one of those days where we just didn't have quite enough for Helio (Castroneves), but I think everyone on the team should be incredibly proud. We've had a difficult month, but the soldiers I've met here and even the stories I've heard from the soldiers overseas have that never-say-die attitude. And that was fully in force this month with the race team. I think we got the best out of everything, so they should be very proud. Honda gave us a good engine, as always. It's so competitive now with everybody having the same engines and the same tires. Firestone did a good job. It would be more frustrating if I had something for Helio (Castroneves), but I have to say I don't think we did. But it's not for a lack of effort." (More Wheldon to come in transcript)
E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing):"The rear tire came loose twice. That's why we had to pit. I could not get the car up to speed. It was too shaky."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon Racing): ""I feel OK. I hope Vitor is OK. It was just an unfortunate incident. We had a good car, and the team had worked so hard. It was just unfortunate to end like that. It's disappointing and frustrating. We just need to regroup and get ready for Milwaukee."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "It was really hard today. I just got a bad set of tires. After we got the lead, under the yellow, we put a new set of tires on. After the restart, I just had nothing there. I had no grip in the front. I thought a tire was going flat. We had to pit, and we went a lap down. From there, it was just catch-up. And at the end, I was really excited again. We had gotten up to the top 10. I guess we short-fueled. Roger got me up to second, behind Helio, and the car felt awesome. I really thought I had a car to win with, but we just didn't have enough fuel. What a story Helio is. It's just incredible. It's just unbelievable for him. I'm so happy for Helio. It's just a Cinderella story. He's like a newborn kid and on top of the world."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing): "It's a top 10, but after finishing here fifth last year, nothing less than that would really be satisfying because you always want more. It was a tough day because it was pretty slick out there and my car wasn't great to start the day, but we worked on the No.20 Menards car all day, added some downforce and got to where I was happy with the way it was handling. But the problem was were just weren't quite fast enough to get up front and challenge. We battled our way to eighth, but I was just hoping for a little more coming into the day after a great run here last year, but it just wasn't meant to be We really didn't have the car to win today. The handling wasn't all that great, and we had to put a bunch of downforce on it during the race to get it to handle better. That slowed my pace down, and I was limited on how racy I could get. The month will end of a high note, however, with a new baby coming into our lives in the next couple of days. Until I win the Indy 500, bringing a child into the world will still be the best thing to ever happen to me."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 36 All Sport Conquest Racing): "It's unbelievable. The guys did an awesome job in the pits. The guys gave me a great car. We were pretty stuck on downforce, and it would show on restarts with every fuel load. I wish I had a little less downforce, but the car was so good on old tires. I was catching up, and everybody was coming toward me on the long runs. The whole team worked well. The engineers made some changes between Carb Day and the race. What great teamwork. I'm very happy for ALL SPORT, Big Red, Rexall Edmonton Indy, King Tut and everybody that helped us this month. To finish this month in front of all of these people is what it's all about. To the sponsors, Eric (Bachelart) and the team, it's a very big deal. The day started when I walked into Gasoline Alley and saw the grandstands. It was my first time here on Race Day, and it was quite unbelievable. I'm very, very happy that I had a chance to participate in this race. For the team, they did a fantastic job. Obviously from where we started, we pretty much had no choice but to go for a little more downforce on the car, and I think that's why at the end of some runs some guys were struggling with their tires and they were coming back to us, which allowed us to make up some ground. We were able to save a lot of fuel on every pit stop. The guys did really, really good, and slowly but surely we made our way to the front. In the end when we got into the pack with the top-10 runners, it was a lot easier to stay flat all around for our runs because I was really stuck and it made it hard for guys to pass us. Our day was pretty simple: We just tried to make no mistakes and stay out of trouble and continue to make up ground toward the front. We also tried not to make any mistakes in the pits, and that's exactly what we did. We kept leapfrogging other guys and girls, so we got ourselves into P11. It was a really great job and a team effort." (More Tagliani to come in transcript)
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs): "(On the collision with the wall that finished his day): "Obviously it's very disappointing. I thought the Z-Line car was working well. After that last pit stop, we weren't moving forward, so it was frustrating. I had a couple of cars go around me, and I just lost all of my downforce so I'm turning. The car just started turning straight away, so I knew I was in trouble. I tried to back it down and just couldn't save it. I'm just disappointed. Everyone at Dale Coyne Racing has worked so hard all month. I thought we were on for a reasonable finish today. It's just how it goes."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 41 ABC Supply/Foyt-Greer Racing): "It's hard to say you're really happy with a 16th-place finish but just coming in for the one race here, I was pretty happy with the car. We worked on it a little bit throughout the day and got it good there at the end. We really never could get any track position to show how good the car was until there at the very end. That's when we ran our quickest laps . Back there with the slower cars, I myself was probably a little rusty. I couldn't get my timing down to make some passes that I should have been able to make on the restarts, but we finished all 200 laps and we held our own against whoever we were racing against, so we've got to be a little bit happy that we brought the car home in one piece. I just hope Vitor is OK."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 16 Tequila Patron Panther Racing): "We had some pretty high expectations moving over to really close to Dan (Wheldon)'s setup. And it seems like early in the race neither of us was great, but I was able to keep pace with Dan. It sounds like he had a bit of the same problem as I had, which was pretty much understeer behind people. We were a little loose coming off the corners, particularly turning the car. It got better at times. We certainly had a better last run. I was basically flat-out the last 15 laps but just could never get the front to work well in traffic." (On fuel strategy): "We lost a little pace turning (the fuel) down a little bit. But it was enough to get us to the end, and Briscoe couldn't do anything with us, so that was fine." (On being back at Indy): "It's a great race. There's so much about this race. You get so pumped up. Then to come out and not really run as good as you hoped, it's a little bit depressing. We put a crew together that really never worked together before, and they gave me some great stops. We beat people out of the pits, and we made it to the end. It would have been nice to be about 10 spots higher."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "It was a pretty uneventful day until the last 60 laps. We had great stops all day with the Target team. Toward the end there; that last stop, we fumbled. I'm not sure which tire it was. That's the problem now with the competition being so tight. You give up a few seconds here and there, and that's nearly your day. You lose six or seven spots. It's just too tough when everybody at the end is full fuel and trying to go flat out. It's too tough to pass." (On driving in traffic versus running up front): "Well, you need to be working at it. If you're going to lose some spots, you want to make sure it's early on. Toward the end, everybody's worked out what they need, and the cars are really good. It just makes it tougher to pass. At the moment, I just think we're relying too much on the downforce of the cars. We need more mechanical grip so you can get closer. At the moment, it just seems spread. Everybody kind of runs up, tags the guy in front, then you can't go behind them close enough in the corners. It's a tough day; pretty unfortunate. I was looking pretty good there for a while."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "We were having a really strong race. We weren't sure about fuel mileage, and we pitted. It might have been a bad call; I don't know. It's hard to say because we were sure that we probably couldn't finish. It's unfortunate. We could have had a really strong one there. It goes by pretty quick. It doesn't feel like 500 miles. The first 80 laps went by really quickly. After that, there was lots of drama with accidents and everything, and we just tried to avoid the debris. But it was good fun. It's a good atmosphere here. I really enjoyed the race."
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 8 Herbalife-KV Racing Technology): "We said all month we wanted to take one step at a time. I can't think this team enough. I had an awesome car. The pit stops were strong. I have to thank my sponsor Herbalife for keeping me strong all race. I'm so happy to finish in the top five for this great race team. It's a real pleasure working with these guys. I had a hundred scary moments out there." (Moving up through the field): "We knew we had to be aggressive right away to move up. We tried to walk that fine line between aggression and balance and keeping the thing in one piece. I'm just thrilled for this Herbalife race team, KV Racing, Jimmy (Vasser) and Kevin (Kalkhoven). What an opportunity for me to come here and do one race and drive a rocket ship. It was awesome. The last couple of laps everybody started to fall off, and I thought I might be able to pick of Danica (Patrick) and another car in front of me. We're just happy to have this strong a result." (More Bell to come in transcript)
SARAH FISHER (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing): "It went OK. It was a tough day. The cars that did get to the end were tough cars. If you don't count the yellows, it was pretty fast paced today. In a one-groove racetrack, it's really, really difficult to pass today. You start up front and sort of get to the end there. We learned a lot. This is only our second year in the '500' as a team. We had amazing pit stops. Every time I came in, we gained spots. I'm really thankful for the guys working so hard at what they do. We're going to get a little bit better car, and we'll come back next year."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless): "I think it was a good result. I could see the win there within our reach. That certainly would have made my situation easier. I think Roger (Penske) will be happy with a top-five. I'm not hitting the wall all month and all that stuff. I'm happy. Helio did a good job. He deserves that win. He worked very hard, and he's a good driver. It couldn't have gone to a better guy."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Window World): "This has been a long month. Our goal was a top 10, and we were moving toward that end, running 12th in the middle of the race. But on a restart, I got pushed out to the wall and got the car in the dirt. Then everybody behind me was able to get by. It took me a few laps to clean off the tires and get going again. I got a good restart the next time and went from 22nd to 16th. At the end, we did the opposite strategy as the leaders. We took new tires and some fuel, hoping to drive through the field. But the track was just too slippery to make a move. So we probably had a better car than our finish today. But overall, it has been a good month. It was fun to bring 'The King' (Richard Petty) as a car owner at the Indianapolis 500."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): (On having an issue in the pits and losing positions): "Yeah; you know, that's what it takes to win at Indianapolis. Everybody has to be flawless, and we had problem in the pits. The Target guys are fantastic on pit lane, normally. They do a great job. But one mistake, unfortunately, is very, very costly. We'll go back, regroup and try to get ourselves a championship. The Target car was pretty bloody good today. When you get too far back in the pack like we did with that problem with the pit stop, it's tough to get back to the front again." (On racing in the Indy 500 again after missing a year): "When I managed to take the lead and was running away, I had a big smile on my face, I can assure you. That was cool. But, it was a tough deal. It was tough in traffic. When we got back in the pack, it was really difficult. But that's the Speedway. Helio did a fantastic job, and he deserves it. The Penske team deserves it. Believe me, we'll be back next year to try to take it back from them."
PAUL TRACY (No. 15 GEICO/KV Racing Technology): "The car was understeering the whole day, and I could never really get close to guys in traffic. You know, I got to thank GEICO and Monster and all the sponsors we had on board, Whipple's Superchargers, everybody, Hard Rock Hotel. You know, it's great to be back out there. Great to run with the top-10 guys all day, but you know, I just wish we did a little bit better. Yeah, it was fun. The end result was not what we wanted, but it was good to be back out there. This was a good tune-up race for me. Obviously, I had been out of the car for a year and off of an oval like this for a long time, so it's good to be back out there. You know, it's not what I wanted. I wanted to hopefully get a top five. You know, we got ourselves up there on a pit stop, but the car just wasn't good enough to stay there. It was a 10th-place car all day, and we ended up ninth. I hope I'll be back. I mean, I hope I showed everybody that I'm capable of doing this, and we've got two more races in Canada, and hopefully I get another chance at it."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola): "The Boost Mobile/Motorola guys did a great job in the pits today, and we had great stops all day. I had a really strong car for the last few stints and would have loved to see the last 35 laps raced green. I know we would have had no issues making it to the end without stopping. I was happy to keep the #7 car up front toward the end of the day. It was a great race for the fans, and I'm happy for Helio (Castroneves); he was super fast all day." (More Patrick quotes to come in transcript)
ALEX LLOYD (No. 99 HER CGR/SSM Racing): "We ran well today, I think. Our problem was that a light fell off the back of the car, so we had to pit just after we went back to green after that first caution. That put us a lap back, and from then on we were just trying to regain our lap. The car was working really well when we were toward the head of the pack with the quick guys as we were in the first couple of stints. But as soon as we got our lap back and returned to the back of the pack, our car didn't work quite as well. We were behind so many cars, and the car seemed to have a mind of its own. But we hung in there and kept digging away and salvaged the results out of it. We had a car that was easily capable of being inside the top 10, no worries, if everything had gone right. But we just kept getting unlucky, hitting the yellows wrong. It wasn't our day, but we brought her home. We did everything right, but I guess in a way we got screwed at the beginning. If we could have done that changer at the beginning, we wouldn't have been a lap behind and would have a good shot of being tucked away in the top 10."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): "I didn't expect this kind of finish after I started 16th, but the car was better than it had been all month. We had some bad timing on the cautions, and we had a bad pit stop that put us far back in the field. It was a really tough day for us."
MILKA DUNO (No. 23 CITGO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "It was a very, very good race. It was very, very tough. It was good. I say thanks to my team, to my sponsors for giving me a good car for the race. We will work for the next one right now. It's good. I'm in Indianapolis, and I finished the race. I'm happy for that."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 19 MONA-VIE): "First, I have to thank MONA-VIE for getting me in the race; just putting me in this position. The car was a great car. We struggled a little bit with track position and a little bit on the stops, although the guys gave me a good car. It's just hard to make up positions. You saw when Penske (Ryan Briscoe) went back and just couldn't get through (the field). There were some people that were just slow, and I couldn't get by them. I could do 219s-flat on my own. But you'd get up to someone who was doing a 212 or 215, and you were stuck behind them. But that's the way it goes. To make up a bunch of positions, finish the race and to do this on a second-week program, I just have to thank everybody at MONA-VIE and Dale Coyne Racing." (On why it's so hard to drive in traffic): "(The car) just doesn't suck up as good in the tow. Normally when you start getting in the tow, you get sucked up pretty good, but (the front of the car) washed away a bit."
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