Castroneves Climbs Fence & Points Board

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SAM_4340The second dual in Detroit was not as much a fight to the finish as the first dual this weekend, with Helio Castroneves putting 13 seconds between himself and P2 at one point and ultimately winning by nearly 2 seconds at the finish line. Although less of a nail-biter than the battle between Will Power & Graham Rahal on Saturday, the second dual was still very crucial in the points standings for the season.  Will Power has stated that he does not pay attention to the points board, especially this early in the season, but I think that’s also easier to say when you’re staying in the mix of the top 3 rather consistently. Power moved from 2nd to 1st in points due to his win on Saturday and his 2nd place podium finish on Sunday. Ryan Hunter-Reay, coming into the Detroit doubleheader with confidence from his Indianapolis 500 victory just days prior, had a follow up weekend that he & the Andretti Autosport team were unprepared for. Honestly, no one said it better than he did:

https://twitter.com/RyanHunterReay/statuses/473233157719085056

Hunter-Reay seemed to be starting the weekend in Detroit right where he left off, finding himself the fastest in the field during Friday morning’s practice session. Sadly, this is where the success started to taper. The afternoon practice session left him stalled on track with only 5 minutes remaining. Qualifying for Dual I on Saturday had Hunter-Reay making contact with the wall during his stint on track with the first group. He was able to get back to the pits but did not advance to the top 12. The race itself that afternoon yielded just as disappointing results – Hunter-Reay was quietly making it through the competition without complication when he went into the tires at Turn 7 on the very last lap. He was not alone in the error however; Jack Hawksworth of Bryan Herta Autosports & Mikhail Aleshin of Sam Schmidt Motorsports both ended up in the tire barrier two turns earlier in 5.

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The bad luck streak continued into qualifying the next morning when Hunter-Reay made contact with the wall yet again, this time debris was noted as the cause. Regardless of the reasoning, Hunter-Reay and his team were tired of the consequence. They went in to the second dual with heads down and focus set but unfortunately still came up short when the DHL Honda suffered an electrical issue on Lap 61, forcing the team to retire for the day.

Due to back-to-back DNF’s, the current Indianapolis 500 champion slipped from points leader to third place in standings. With Power ending up leading after Detroit, his Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves found himself also moving up one position in points to second. Castroneves was the Verizon P1 Award recipient for the first dual and then the winner of the second dual. He is no stranger to the podium on the border of the USA and Canada, achieving his first career series win (and first fence climb) on Belle Isle in 2000, following it up with victory again the following year, and this past Sunday makes THREE. I mentioned earlier in the weekend how 3 definitely seemed to be his lucky number this weekend and that trend played out!

12324176Castroneves is never short on smiles and confidence and he will definitely have both going into this next weekend in Texas. Castroneves was victorious at the Wild Asphalt Circus when IndyCar ran there a year ago. He gladly wore that cowboy hat and shot the silver guns like a pro, and I guarantee he wants to do it again! He mentioned after the second dual that Sunday was:

“…pure racing. There was no fuel strategy, no playing games. I love it. It was perfect. I knew exactly what I needed to do.”

Can Team Penske & Castroneves produce this same essence on the oval in Fort Worth on Saturday, June 7th? Make sure you tune in and find out.

Don’t forget, the Verizon IndyCar Series is back on NBC Sports this weekend. Coverage starts at 8pm (EST) and you can also follow along for updates right here, plus by following me on Twitter, and of course by liking my public page on Facebook.