By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Yellow flags and equally fast teammates kept Helio Castroneves out of Victory Circle in last night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix Raceway.
The driver of the No. 3 REV Chevrolet sat on pole for Saturday night’s race and led the opening 73 of 250 laps. Team Penske teammate Will Power inherited the lead by staying out a few laps longer before pitting than Castroneves.
Following the stop, the 41-year-old Brazilian settled into second place until a yellow on lap 136 for Takuma Sato’s accident in Turn 4 trapped he and Power a lap down as Simon Pagenaud had not pitted yet. The field was waived around, putting Castroneves in third place for the restart.
Once the race restarted, the three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 then found himself in a battle with teammate Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand, as well as a number of drivers that were off the lead lap.
While mired in traffic, Castroneves stayed in close quarters with Newgarden and Hildebrand until Newgarden was eliminated from the fight following contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Hildebrand zoomed past as Castroneves faded back and nearly lost the car towards the end of the race on his way to finishing in fourth. He noted that once Hildebrand was by, he felt his race end at that point.
“Hildebrand got the advantage, so that’s the race,” he told Motorsports Tribune. “At the end, we had a front wing. Unfortunately I was too greedy, I got too loose and it spooked me out.”
Castroneves noted that the Team Penske cars were so equal being out in clean air was the key to the race and if he would have stayed out in front, he would have had the same luck as Pagenaud – the eventual race winner.
“All four cars were close to each other,” he said. “You can see that everyone was putting up the same lap times.
“I would have been pretty much the same. Whoever would have gotten that lucky break from us, he would be sitting in Victory Circle.”
Although he was looking for more, he is happy with Team Penske and Chevrolet’s overall pace throughout the weekend and thinks it will build momentum heading into the Month of May.
“It was a great team effort, great work for the entire group,” Castroneves added.
“Unfortunately, when we have three other great drivers, that’s what happens. Somebody’s day is going to be short and someone’s day is going to be good.”