Helio and Team Penske win pitstop competition Helio Castroneves and the No. 3 Team Penske crew earned its third consecutive victory in the Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Challenge on May 22 during 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 $40,000 winner's check from the $90,000 event purse. The team and Castroneves also won in 2006 and 2007. Last year's event was canceled due to rain.
Pole sitter Castroneves and Team Penske will try to become the first tandem since Buddy Rice and Rahal Letterman Racing in 2004 to win the Pit Stop Challenge and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. Rice also started from the pole that year.
"They're incredible. They've been working (during the) offseason, and every year it's like that," Castroneves said of his crew. "Some of those guys have been here 10 years. They know my style; they know what I like, and they know what I don't like. But the good news is that we're a team. We lose together; we win together. The good news is we celebrate together."
This win contributed to a victorious day for Castroneves, as he was the fastest in final Indianapolis 500 practice this morning and learned that the one remaining charge of tax evasion against him was dropped minutes before he participated in the Pit Stop Challenge this afternoon.
"I just want to thank the team for always believing, for always being behind me all the time," Castroneves said. "As I said, this month is getting better and better. I'm just so thankful that I had a fair trial and the outcome was the way it was, and that's the last page of my book."
Castroneves and his No. 3 Team Penske crew faced Marco Andretti and his No. 26 Andretti Green Racing Team in the final round of competition. Castroneves' final-round time was 7.962 seconds to Andretti's 9.456 seconds.
"The team that won was definitely the best team out there today," said Jeff Grahn, chief mechanic for the Andretti crew. "I'm pretty happy with our guys. If we can do that all day Sunday, I think we'll be looking good."
The No. 3 Team Penske crew made history in the semi-final round by beating its teammate, the No. 6 Team Penske crew of Ryan Briscoe with a time of 7.636 seconds, the fastest in the 32-year history of the contest. Castroneves' crew set the previous record of 7.677 in the 2007 quarter-final round. This year, Briscoe stalled his car in the semi-final round, disqualifying the No. 6 team.
Rinaman said the crew rallied together to win for Castroneves and team owner Roger Penske.
"This is for Roger," Rinaman said. "This is what we do. Helio, the guy does so much for us, and we were able to give him something back. We still have another big event to go here. We want to perform, and this is a stepping stone."
Said Tim Cindric, president of Penske Performance, Inc., the race strategist for the No. 3 team: "My hat's off to these guys. They do a great job. It gives everybody here confidence, and it gives Helio (Castroneves) the confidence that he's got the best guys behind him."
This was the fourth consecutive victory in the Pit Stop Challenge for Team Penske following the win by Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 6 team led by Matt Jonsson in 2005. The team has 11 victories in the event's history, a record.
The 2009 Pit Stop Challenge-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; and Corey Odenbrett, inside rear tire changer.