Magic Mileage Number Brings Castroneves a Kentucky Indy 300 Victory
A magic fuel number contrived by veteran Team Penske Race Strategist Tim Cindric helped Helio Castroneves rebound from an early-race pit stop error and emerge with a 13.1597 second "Kentucky Indy 300" victory over race pole award winner Ed Carpenter tonight.
Castroneves feathered the throttle in his No. 3 Team Penske machine through the final 53 of 200 race laps and stayed on track as the five drivers in front of him cycled to the pits to refresh their car's fuel cells from Laps 192-197 to recover from a green-flag race run that started on Lap 95.
The nine-year veteran, who was denied a 2008 Kentucky victory when his car's fuel cell ran dry in the frontstretch coming to the checkered flag and was passed by eventual winner Scott Dixon, seized the lead with three laps remaining and jetted away to his second victory of the season and his first in the Bluegrass State. He leads all IndyCar Series drivers in Kentucky Speedway top-five finishes with seven and top-10 finishes with eight through nine career starts.
"Incredible job from Team Penske. When we started the race, the car wasn't the fastest, but it wasn't the slowest. It had pretty good balance. We were right there, it was very tough.
"We came to the pits for the first stop and had a miscommunication. The crew chief thought the right rear (tire) wasn't on, so I had one guy telling me go, go, go and the guy on top of me telling me to stay. We ended up losing about 10 positions.
"The genius Tim Cindric came with a great idea and said, 'when we pit the last time, you gotta make this number because we have nothing to lose.' I said 'that's going to be impossible.' Flashes of the race in 2008 started coming back to me.
"We went back, we stayed about in 10th position saving fuel and trying to make this number. What people don't realize when you start running that slow is the balance of the car changes quite a bit, so it's harder driving slower than faster.
"I was about 12 mph slower than the leaders, but towards the end when (Cindric) said, 'you're the leader, go for it,' I could not believe it. We started back again on 215 (mph) and 216 (mph) laps. What a great day, a misfortune that happened in the pits was the key to this win. It feels great, I'm happy for the entire team," Castroneves described.
Carpenter, who led 11 laps, placed second at Kentucky Speedway for the second consecutive season. He lost out to Ryan Briscoe by 0.0162 of a second in the closest series track finish last season and fell victim to the widest series margin of victory at the track tonight. He has earned a total of two top-five and five top-10 finishes in his seven Kentucky Speedway starts since 2004.
His Panther Racing teammate Dan Wheldon, who led a race-high 93 laps, took third, Andretti Autosport driver Tony Kanaan grabbed fourth and Target Chip Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti closed out the race top five.
"For Dan and I to finish second and third is a little disappointing because we were so strong all weekend. Dan had a dominant car tonight and it's tough being in our position when you have a guy win on fuel mileage," Carpenter said.
Castroneves' teammate and championship leader Will Power scored an eighth-place finish and saw his lead over second-place contender Franchitti shrink from 23 to 17 points with two races remaining on the schedule.
Tonight's race concludes the 2010 Kentucky Speedway season. The track's 2011 season will open with a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tripleheader July 7-9 and conclude with an Oct. 1 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race that will be complemented by the return of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Ticket information is available now through this Web site clicking the "Get 2011 Tickets" graphic located on the top right corner of the page or by calling 859-578-2300.
Story by Mike Schmaltz