After claiming his first win since the 2002 Indy 500 two weeks ago, Helio Castroneves dominated the Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth on Sunday to vault into the lead of the IRL title race.
After claiming his first win since the 2002 Indy 500 two weeks ago, Helio Castroneves dominated the Firestone Indy 225 at the Nazareth Speedway on Sunday to vault into the lead of the IRL title race.
The Brazilian inherited the lead on lap 53 of the 225-lap event when early leader Scott Dixon fell behind with driveline problems.
It is notoriously difficult to pass - either for position or to clear a backmarker - at the Nazareth Speedway and Castroneves had two close calls... First, he touched wing-to-wheel while lapping Greg Ray, and later during a bunch-up in lapped traffic that took out Tony Kanaan and Dixon's team-mate, South African Tomas Scheckter, who were running second and third behind him.
His toughest time came during the second half of the race, when defending champion Sam Hornish hounded him. He eventually finished a scant 0.17 seconds ahead of Hornish.
"I think it was a great race. Sam was very, very tough but fortunately my car was very, very fast in those moments. Its very difficult to pass at this track".
Hornish almost passed Helio on the 165th lap, but was thwarted when the yellow flag came out because of debris on the track. "Going down the back straightway," Hornish said, "I had a run on the No. 3 car. I didn't have enough to get around him, but it would have been a pretty tough time going around the outside. It is tough racing on this track.
Bryan Herta put in a solid run for third place, without the thrills of the top two. Dixon appeared to be the class of the field for the first 50 laps, until he fell back with driveline problems.
The New Zealander was, however, saved from real trouble by Scheckter. Running behind Dixon under yellow after the first round of pit stops, the young Capetonian saw smoke coming from the rear of his team-mate's car. He radioed the team and the Kiwi was brought back into the pits, where the team repaired a damaged CV joint. The team then sent Dixon out - albeit laps behind - to gather championship points.
The race was slowed by caution four times, twice for wall contact. On Lap 120, Kanaan and Scheckter, running second and third at the time, touched when the lead pack bunched up as they dealt with a lapped car. Both made contact with the outside wall in Turn 2.
"When you race close to each other, sometimes that happens," Kanaan said. "I really don't know what happened, because someone hit me from behind. Helio was trying to pass Kenny (Brack), and we were all slowed down to try and get into the corner. It looks like Tomas didn't see me and hit me from the back. It's a tough break, because we really need the points."
In reaction, Scheckter said: "People are trying to get a better exit by slamming on the brakes as they enter the corner. You don't get a run on them going into the corner and everybody slams on the brakes. I had nowhere to go."
Castroneves' victory was Toyota's tenth victory in 13 races this season and clinched the IndyCar series manufacturer's championship for the Japanese manufacturer.
The Brazilian now heads the IndyCar series driver's championship, with 429 points. Team-mate Gil de Ferran is in second place, with 404 points, and Kanaan, who entered the weekend on top, fell back to third place with 397 points.
Original article from Car