Castroneves, Penske repeat in Pit Stop Challenge
Helio Castroneves and the No. 3 Team Penske crew made it two in a row by winning the 2007 Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge on May 25 on Miller Lite Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Castroneves and the Team Penske crew, led by veteran chief mechanic Rick Rinaman, took home the $50,000 winner's check from the $100,000 event purse for the second consecutive year.
"These guys are just incredible; it was a great team effort," Castroneves said. "I don't know if you saw on TV, but they have been practicing all off-season. This is their competition. I was worried I would screw it up. Thank God I didn't."
Following the final-round win, Castroneves did his customary victory fence climb - this time on the inside catch fence, right in front of the throng gathered for the Miller Lite Carb Day festivities.
It was an all-Penske finale for the Challenge as Castroneves and the No. 3 crew beat teammate Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 6 Penske Racing crew. Castroneves' final-round time was 8.335 seconds to Hornish's 8.888 seconds.
"We come here with three races in mind: the run for the pole; believe me, the pit stop is just as high up there for everybody as the pole run, and then we've got the race," Rinaman said. "We've got one more to do. This puts us in the race with a lot of confidence in ourselves."
Castroneves will start the 91st Indianapolis 500 from the pole Sunday.
The No. 3 Team Penske crew made history in the quarter-final round by beating the No. 8 Rahal Letterman Racing crew of Scott Sharp with a time of 7.677 seconds, the fastest in the 31-year history of the contest. Castroneves' crew set the previous record of 7.7365 in the 2006 semifinal round.
Tim Cindric, president of Penske Performance, Inc., is the race strategist for the No. 3 while team owner Roger Penske calls the shots for Hornish's No. 6 team during the race. Cindric admitted to taking pleasure in beating the boss in the pit stop finale.
"It's pretty cool going into the finals knowing that one of us is going to win," he said. "It's also pretty cool to take a little money out of R.P. (Roger Penske)'s pocket. This team's gone through a lot here in the last year, relocating ourselves from Reading (Pa.) to Mooresville (N.C.). There's a couple guys that were sitting here last year that aren't sitting here this year.
"My hat's off to Rick (Rinaman) and the guys to fill those voids, because they were voids to fill. They stood the test today."
This was the third consecutive victory in the Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge for Team Penske following the win by Hornish and the No. 6 team led by Matt Jonsson in 2005. The team has 10 victories in the event's history, a record.
The 2007 Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge over-the-wall winning crew from Team Penske: Rinaman, chief mechanic and outside front tire changer; Matt Rosentel, inside front tire changer; John Haslett, fueler/vent man; Pat Hozza, airjack; Eric Prentice, outside rear tire changer; Corey Odenbrett, inside rear tire changer.