By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — Helio Castroneves went 1,134 days without a victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series after his last win at the Detroit doubleheader race on June 1, 2014.
His winless streak ended Sunday in victory at the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway, also ending Team Penske’s 11 year run of futility at Iowa.
Castroneves started third, grabbed the lead for the first time on Lap 20 and ended up leading 217 of the final 280 laps, passing Al Unser Sr. for fourth on the all time lap leader list.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner had all the pieces he needed to win but in the past at Iowa he never had racing luck. That changed Sunday.
“We’ve always been very quick (at Iowa),” Castroneves said. “We’ve got a lot of pole positions as a team, and the rhythm has always been there. Unfortunately, as I said, last year, for example, we pitted at the wrong time and a yellow came in and we were two laps down.
“This time the car was really good. We learned our lesson. We focused on something that we knew that we’ve got to work on it, which was able to maintain the life of the tire, and that was it. So it wasn’t any particular small thing that we always had, and finally we were able to put it together,” Castroneves said.
For the Brazilian, Iowa was always a track where he felt confident he could win. With five front row starts, his confidence was warranted.
“I always come to this place knowing this is the year. This is the year it’s going to happen. This is the year we’re going to break through.”
“I didn’t think different this year, either, and I always wanted that trophy, believe it or not. I’m always like, man, I’ve got to get that in my collection. I really like that. So it is a dream come true, and I tell to everyone, you’ve got to dream big because one day this thing will come true. It took 11 years, but we made it happen, and I’m very happy,” Castroneves said.
The win moved Castroneves ahead of Rick Mears on the all time American Championship Car wins list and closer to the total amassed by Mark Donohue over his illustrious career with Team Penske.
“I have to say I’m honored to be part of this organization, and I can only thank Roger, Cindric and the entire team to be supporting me,” Castroneves said.
“It’s easy to be behind you in good times, but they’ve always been there no matter the time, so for me that’s priceless. I’m going to continue focusing in this season, and there’s more to come.”