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After Fontana
Final Driver Standings

Rank Driver Points
1 Will Power 671
2 Helio Castroneves 609
3 Scott Dixon 604
4 Juan Pablo Montoya 586
5 Simon Pagenaud 565
6 Ryan Hunter-Reay 563
7 Tony Kanaan 544
8 Carlos Munoz 483
9 Marco Andretti 463
10 Sebastien Bourdais 461
11 Ryan Briscoe 461
12 James Hinchcliffe 456
13 Josef Newgarden 406
14 Charlie Kimball 402
15 Justin Wilson 395
16 Mikhail Aleshin 372
17 Jack Hawksworth 366
18 Takuma Sato 350
19 Graham Rahal 345
20 Carlos Huertas 314
21 Sebastian Saavedra 291
22 Ed Carpenter 262
23 Mike Conway 252
24 Oriol Servia 88
25 Kurt Busch 80
26 J.R. Hildebrand 66
27 Sage Karam 57
28 Luca Filippi 46
29 James Davison 34
30 Jacques Villeneuve 29
31 Alex Tagliani 28
32 Townsend Bell 22
33 Pippa Mann 21
34 Martin Plowman 18
35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8
Castroneves holds off Dixon in Alabama

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Sunday, April 11, 2010

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Helio Castroneves celebrates his win
Scott Morris/AR1.com
Using a perfectly planned fuel and pit strategy by Team Manager Tim Cindric, Helio Castroneves broke Penske teammate Will Power's stranglehold on the 2010 season by holding off Scott Dixon for the final two laps following a late race caution to win the inaugural Alabama Grand Prix.  Dario Franchitti came home third with Power, who opted for 3 instead of 2 pitstops, fourth and Marco Andretti rounded out the top-5.

Before a large sun-drenched crowd at the beautiful undulating Barber Motorsports Park in the hills of Alabama, Andretti led for 58 of the 90 laps, but he also opted for a 3-pitstop strategy and today that was the wrong one to have as the top-3 finishers completed the race on two.

Polesitter Will Power lead early but he pitted early because he was on a 3-stop strategy and from there Castroneves and then Andretti took command of the race.  Andretti had Castroneves and Dixon all over his rear wing for the last 2/3rds of the race, but they could not find a way past Marco who was driving the best race of his career.

Helio Castroneves chases race leader Marco Andretti
Dennis Ashlock/Firestone
But with 8 laps to go Marco had to duck in the pits for a fast splash and go of ethanol and from there Castroneves, who led 20 of 90 laps, had the measure of Dixon and that's the way they finished.

On the podium Helio made strong mention of Marco's performance today saying "For a minute there I thought it was Michael in the car. The guy was driving like his dad. He did an amazing job out there today and I have to take my hat off to him"

A lot of people are taking notice of Marco's driving lately. It seems like he has hit his stride now and is really on top of the car.

"We have to be happy to put the Venom car into the top five, especially after our finishes on road courses last year," said Andretti.  "I think maybe we could have stretched out each of our stints a bit longer and gained on fuel one lap at a time. Helio (Castroneves) just went longer than us each time and that was the difference at the end. He was able to go that much farther and we fell short. Now we just have to keep marching forward. The four of us are working together to keep improving our race cars; we're still a bit off pace. Overall I think this shows we're on the right track."

Helio Castroneves has Scott Dixon all over him as they dash for the finish
Dennis Ashlock/Firestone
For Castroneves it was his first win in 14 races - since last year at Texas Motor Speedway - and it kept Team Penske's record clean sweep of 2010 alive as Power won the first two races and now Castroneves the third.

“This biggest challenge was it was hard to pass. The turbulence here was so difficult. You were just trying not to make a mistake,” said Castroneves. “I felt like the Team Penske car was better than Marco’s but, unfortunately, I just couldn't pass him.  I was just patient and waiting for an opportunity, and well, I guess we were able to be smart enough to save a lot of fuel. Towards the end, we just had a yellow flag.  I didn't ask for that.  Especially when you have Scott Dixon and those guys behind you.  So I just decided to make sure I did not give any opportunities for those guys, and that's what I did. I knew what the car was capable of doing.  Sometimes you've got to count with a little luck.  So today was a great day for Team Penske, and especially the No.  3 guys.”

This was the first IndyCar race where all of the cars finished.

This race didn’t have anywhere near the yellows that everyone thought, and there was a lot more passing than everyone thought as well. Its one of those cases where you are glad you were wrong.

All the drivers today did a great job and for the most part had a lot of clean racing, except when Danica Patrick punted Alex Lloyd - see our Sunday photo page for the incident.

Though Power’s two-race win streak came to an end, he still leads the championship standings after three races. His lead over second-place Castroneves is now 32 points (136-104).

"It is great having Helio win, which makes it three wins to start the season for Team Penske,” said Power. “In the strategy meeting before the race we talked about it and we knew that a caution in the early part of the race would not be to our favor. We made the best of it though. The Verizon Team Penske car was fast today. The guys did a great job in the pits. We are still in the points lead heading into Long Beach. I think we are going to be strong there."

The teams now make their way across country to Long Beach, California for next weekend's - Monaco of the West - the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, an always popular event with fans, drivers and teams alike.

POST-RACE QUOTES

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, winner Indy Grand Prix of Alabama): "I felt like the Team Penske car was better than Marco's but, unfortunately, I just couldn't pass him. I was just patient and waiting for an opportunity, and well, I guess we were able to be smart enough to save a lot of fuel. Towards the end, we just had a yellow flag. I didn't ask for that. Especially when you have Scott Dixon and those guys behind you. So I just decided to make sure I did not give any opportunities for those guys, and that's what I did. I knew what the car was capable of doing. Sometimes you've got to count with a little luck. So today was a great day for Team Penske, and especially the No. 3 guys."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished second): "It was a good day for Team Target all in all with both cars in the top three. We could have been better off if we would have got around Helio. It was hard to have the team telling me to save fuel and try to manage the fuel gauge, but still push. I feel that the officials made a poor call when they said that I passed Helio at the start/finish line. I got back behind him and he went around the outside at Turn 1.k is all about track position. It was great weekend for the team. We didn't have the fastest cars, but we made use of what we had. Standing at the podium in second and third is pretty impressive. We are looking forward to Long Beach."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Suave, finished third): "The Target team was working hard on the fuel strategy today. Will Power and I were side by side at the end there, but with so many lap cars in between us, it was really hard to fight for the positions. I am pleased to be on the podium and sit second in points after starting in seventh today. It was great to see all the fans. The atmosphere here was incredible and I am looking forward to returning to this track in the future.

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske finished fourth): "It is great having Helio win which makes it three wins to start the season for Team Penske. In the strategy meeting before the race we talked about it and we knew that a caution in the early part of the race would not be to our favor. We made the best of it though. The No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car was fast today. The guys did a great job in the pits. We are still in the points lead heading into Long Beach. I think we are going to be strong there."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, finished fifth): "We have to be happy to put the Venom car into the top five, especially after our finishes on road courses last year.  I think maybe we could have stretched out each of our stints a bit longer and gained on fuel one lap at a time. Helio (Castroneves) just went longer than us each time and that was the difference at the end. He was able to go that much farther and we fell short. Now we just have to keep marching forward. The four of us are working together to keep improving our race cars; we're still a bit off pace. Overall I think this shows we're on the right track."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, finished sixth):"I am pretty happy with a top-six today in the Team Penske car. We made some key passes there at the end getting past Wilson, Kanaan and Conway. The guys did great in the pits and Roger (Penske) called a great race. We were really in great shape until the last yellow came out since a few guys in front of us were going to have to pit. If it was not for that yellow we would have been on the podium."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, finished eighth): "It was a long day for us. I think we had the right strategy, but we just didn't have the kind of speed that we needed to push those guys up front. It's tough, but we have to keep working and get ready for Long Beach."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, finished 10th): "We made up 11 spots so I take my hat off to the team. They did a good job. We stuck together all weekend and we made some ground and learned a lot. Until the very end of the weekend, we improved the car and I'm very proud of the boys. Even on a tough weekend, we did another top-10 so I'm very happy and very proud of our team. I'm very proud to be wearing the new colors of LaCapsule Sportive/Adonis Products and I want to remind everyone that this is the beginning of our new clothing line in LaCapsule Sportive so keep an eye on it as it is coming soon."

Results

Rank

No Name Laps Gap Diff Best Lap Time Stops
1 3 Helio Castroneves 90 --.---- --.---- 1:13.2911 2
2 9 Scott Dixon 90 0.5703 0.5703 1:13.4830 2
3 10 Dario Franchitti 90 7.5887 8.1590 1:13.6246 2
4 12 Will Power 90 0.5049 8.6639 1:12.8404 3
5 26 Marco Andretti 90 1.0771 9.7410 1:13.4842 3
6 6 Ryan Briscoe 90 1.2201 10.9611 1:13.3310 3
7 22 Justin Wilson 90 0.5867 11.5478 1:12.7853 3
8 11 Tony Kanaan 90 1.3055 12.8533 1:13.9089 3
9 24 Mike Conway 90 0.4629 13.3162 1:13.0039 3
10 77 Alex Tagliani 90 1.5288 14.8450 1:13.5759 3
11 4 Dan Wheldon 90 0.3557 15.2007 1:13.8037 3
12 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay 90 0.4720 15.6727 1:13.5288 3
13 32 Mario Moraes 90 1.0515 16.7242 1:13.7224 3
14 2 Raphael Matos 89 1 lap 1 lap 1:14.6778 2
15 06 Hideki Mutoh 89 0.7459 0.7459 1:14.1111 3
16 8 EJ Viso 89 1.7301 2.4760 1:14.3426 3
17 67 Graham Rahal 89 1.2830 3.7590 1:13.5767 3
18 14 Vitor Meira 89 0.5345 4.2935 1:14.1263 3
19 7 Danica Patrick 89 0.4113 4.7048 1:13.9750 3
20 36 Bertrand Baguette 89 2.4890 7.1938 1:14.0818 3
21 78 Simona de Silvestro 89 1.6918 8.8856 1:14.0631 2
22 34 Mario Romancini 89 1.7499 10.6355 1:14.3794 4
23 19 Alex Lloyd 89 0.5745 11.2100 1:14.5913 3
24 18 Milka Duno 86 3 laps 4 laps 1:16.2896 4
25 5 Takuma Sato 68 18 laps 22 laps 1:13.4234 3

Race Statistics
Winners average speed:  106.436
Time of Race: 1:56:41.3928
Margin of victory: 0.5703 of a second
Cautions: 2 for 5 laps
Lead changes: 7 among 3 drivers
Lap Leaders:Power 1-12, Castroneves 13-15, Andretti 16-28, Castroneves 29-31, Andretti 32-56, Castroneves 57-61, Andretti 62-81, Castroneves 82-90.
Point Standings: Power 136, Castroneves 104, Franchitti 94, Wilson 85, Dixon 80, Briscoe 79, Hunter-Reay 77, Matos 72, Kanaan 64, Meira 62.

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