By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Helio Castroneves’s brief return to open wheel racing has so far been a success after the new sports car driver finished sixth in Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course as teammate Will Power scored Team Penske’s 200th IndyCar win.
After an early stop, Castroneves was able to advance through the field on fresher tires as others pitted.
“It was just like I never left, it was a great strategy from the team,” said Castroneves. “We started on the blacks, we took a gamble. It wasn’t worth it to try to fight because I kind of knew it was going to come back, and it did.
“The team did a phenomenal job staying cool, all of my guys did phenomenal pit stops. This is the group that we’re going to have for the 500 so imagine when you have the guys showing up and doing the job, incredible.”
Castroneves’s only odd moment came at the very start of the race after he lost control following contact from another car. Castroneves’s car then hit teammate Simon Pagenaud, sending Pagenaud off with Jordan King.
“I lost control and hit Simon but he made a phenomenal comeback,” said Castroneves.” “Everyone did a great job, I know Josef (Newgarden) had a little incident with (Sebastien) Bourdais, Will (Power) did a phenomenal (job), Will was unbeatable this weekend.
“Maybe Will wants me to come back, every time I come back he’s dominating but it was great, it was great all the way around. Great pit stops, Roger Penske did a phenomenal job as well on the strategy. This was a preparation for the 500.”
While this was Castroneves’s first race, he has been busy for the Acura Team Penske DPi program, winning the last IMSA race at Mid-Ohio.
“Oh yeah, I miss being in open wheel for sure but I have a great program with the Acura,” said Castroneves. “It’s a great group of guys as well. We just came off from a big win. You know, a race car is a race car, it’s just when you have a great team like this, it makes your life much easier.
“Obviously I want to be competitive, I want to be in the top three but you know what, I can’t take it for granted. This is a two day weekend and a different car but we were able to put it up right away and with a little bit of luck we were able to finish in the top six again.”