Helio Castroneves Wins at Iowa

The drought is finally over.

Entering today’s race at Iowa Speedway, it had been 1,134 days since Helio Castroneves last won a race in the Verizon IndyCar Series. That streak of more than three years ended today, as the Brazilian led 217 laps en route to a dominating victory. It is the first win for Roger Penske at Iowa, and now all four of his drivers have won a race this season.

JR Hildebrand had an eventful weekend. It began with a spin in practice that resulted in significant damage to the No. 21 car. The ECR crew repaired the car, and he qualified on the front row. After leading 38 laps on Sunday, he finished in the same position he started. That runner-up finish matches his career best, and is his second podium this year.

Joining Castroneves and Hildebrand on the podium was Ryan Hunter-Reay. No driver in the series has had the amount of bad luck that he has this season. With four DNFs and his last last five finishes all coming outside of the top 12, it was a much-needed result for he and the entire Andretti team. Will Power and Graham Rahal rounded out the top on Sunday.

Iowa Corn 300 Box Score

Josef Newgarden finished sixth, which actually seemed a little disappointing. He had a strong car, and his previous three finishes at Iowa were 2nd, 2nd, and 1st last year. The fourth Penske driver, defending series champ Simon Pagenaud, was behind him in 7th place. Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan led the charge for Chip Ganassi’s team, but they were never a threat in this race. James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top ten, as he fought an extremely loose car all afternoon.

Alexander Rossi and Ed Carpenter were running well early, but faded as the race went on. They were 11th and 12th, just ahead of Esteban Gutierrez, who did very well in his first oval race. It was a dreadful day for AJ Foyt’s team, as both of their cars had issues during the event. Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz were 19th and 20th respectively, as the team continues to search for answers. Mikhail Aleshin brought out the first caution on Lap 57, when he lost control of his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, which ended up in the outside wall.

Castroneves earned his 30th win, and he has done it on every type of race track. Nine of his wins have been on short ovals, eight on superspeedways, seven on road courses, and six on street circuits. Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend that Penske will likely only run three full-time cars next season, with Helio being the odd man out. He will likely join Juan Montoya in the team’s sportscar team, in addition to running the Indianapolis 500.

Asked before the race if he knew what he had to do to keep his job full-time in IndyCar, Castroneves noted that perhaps winning a championship was the answer. Now in his 20th season, Helio is still chasing that elusive title, and the pressure is on now more than ever. With his win today, Castroneves has closed the gap between he and Dixon in the championship to just eight points with six races remaining.

The next stop for the Verizon IndyCar Series comes north of the border. The Honda Indy Toronto is next weekend, with the race on July 16. NBC Sports Network will once again provide coverage, which begins at 3 PM ET on Sunday.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “It took a little while to get the Menards Chevy running fast, but it definitely was at the end. There was so much tire degradation that it was difficult to get a great feel for balance. Essentially, seventh is not bad. It’s not what we want to do, but starting 11th and being unlucky with the draw in qualifying are factors. I can’t complain about it. That’s the sport. We just need to be patient and keep doing what we’re doing. At some point we’ll get another win. I feel awesome for Helio (Castroneves) – just super happy. Instead of concentrating on me today, I think we all should congratulate Helio. He’s been waiting for this win since 2014 and it’s kind of unfair considering how competitive he has been.”

Josef Newgarden: “It was one of those not bad, but not great days. The Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet was really good, but we just couldn’t get over the hump. Everyone is so equal now that it really is challenging to make up large amounts of ground. We were a little behind the eight-ball after qualifying 16th, but that’s the draw sometimes. I really couldn’t be happier for Helio (Castroneves). He’s been so close so many times. It was a great day for Team Penske.”

Helio Castroneves: “That was great. I can’t thank enough Team Penske, Hitachi, Chevy car group and all our partners, and especially the people in the shop. They don’t get much credit, but without their work and effort, we wouldn’t be able to do what we did. And again, it’s a great team effort because we came here, we tried a lot of different setups between all four cars, and man, I picked the winning one, so it was really good. The car felt really good, and it was just great. In the beginning we missed a little bit on the setup, then we made some adjustments after the first stop or second stop, and the car was fantastic. It was really good. It was a long time (between wins), but you can never stop believing, and my team never stopped supporting me on that and today was great. Everything went great. We didn’t have a yellow at the wrong time, we didn’t have issues with the tire or anything else or mechanical. Everything was really, really good, and when you have a day like this, you’ve got to execute.

Conor Daly: 
“Tough day. Happy with the first stint – it felt good, got a good start, it was nice. But it was like driving on a knife edge. We improved the car the last session but still not where we need to be. Working hard out there and the car snapped loose and I tried to keep it out of the wall. Hopefully we can develop it more and come back stronger.”

James Hinchcliffe: “It was a bit of a long day for us, to be honest. We had a really quick car in certain points of the day, but really struggled with the car going loose in traffic. There was a bunch of times where we had really good runs on cars, and as I tried to pull up behind them, we just totally lost the back of the car. We were really fighting that all night long… it was a bit of a battle out there for sure. I feel bad for Mikhail (Aleshin), obviously, and certainly not the finish that we wanted. We probably had a fifth-place car, but unfortunately we couldn’t pull that off today. It was nice to get a finish after some of the luck we’ve had the last few rounds. We head to a street circuit which is what we’ve been strong at so far this year, so hopefully we can have a good result in the Arrow car in Toronto.”

Mikhail Aleshin: 
“We had a loose car all day and felt like I was holding on to my life there that whole stint. I’m not sure how many saves they might have shown (on the TV broadcast) but on that last lap it just went, and I couldn’t do anything to save it.”

Max Chilton: 
“It was a wild one for sure in the Gallagher car today. I really didn’t know where we were until we crossed the finish line. At one point we were leading, at one point we were 18th. I tried to run a good race. I was right there at one point with Scott (Dixon) and Tony (Kanaan) and we were battling pretty well and changing spots. They have years more experience than I do, so I was happy to be in that mix with them. We didn’t have the package to win it this weekend, but we did the best job I think we could have.”

Scott Dixon: “It was a rough day for the NTT Data car. We were just so loose. We tried to fix it with wing adjustments, tire pressure adjustments and cross-weights, but the rear was just loose especially on restarts for us. As we got later on in the run, we could beat up the right front tire and create some understeer which helped. Our only option was to run the high line and as soon as I went on the low line I started to spin out. All in all just happy I didn’t crash today.”

Tony Kanaan: “That was an exhausting race for sure. The car was a handful at the beginning of the race, but we were able to make some adjustments throughout that first stint in the cockpit that really helped out. The car definitely came to us as the race went on and we made adjustments in the stops. We were running the same lap times, if not faster, as the leaders multiple times throughout the race. We just weren’t able to make the passes we needed to get to the front. The NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing guys did a good job in the pits and were able to get me a few spots on pit lane. We were hoping for a higher finish than ninth, especially with how the weekend was going, but we’ll take a top-10 finish heading into Toronto.”

Will Power: 
“I wish we could have gotten the Verizon Chevrolet to Victory Lane, but I don’t feel bad at all with where we ended up. It was a good day. Not unhappy at all. The car was pretty loose on that second to last stint, but very good on that final stint. We got another solid finish and scored some important points. But the story of today is Helio (Castroneves). I’m mega happy for him. It’s really kind of ridiculous that it has taken this long with how good they’ve been. Something always seemed to bite them, but not today. I couldn’t be happier.”

Carlos Munoz: “I feel really sorry for the team. The car was pretty decent in the race, maybe not the fastest, but really consistent through the run. I went out on new tires and the car didn’t turn. In Turn 4, the car went straight, got in marbles and there was no way back from that.”

Graham Rahal: “I’m really proud of the GEHL team. I wanted to win today so I’m disappointed with fifth, which is a good thing. We had a good day and got solid points. We would have liked to have gained on Will (Power) and Helio (Castroneves, in the point standings) though. I actually felt I had a car that was equally as good as theirs but the track position became hard. As I said during the broadcast under the red flag, the guys just kept moving up (on the high line), which is fine – that’s their right to choose a lane – but that was where I was comfortable running so we lost some space. The guys did a great job, though. We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep finishing in the front. We’re going to Toronto (street race) now and after what happened in Detroit (two wins, street race), hopefully that setup will translate well and we’ll have a great race there too. Yeah I’m disappointed with fifth place, but overall it was a great day. That’s four really solid finishes in a row, so we’ve just got to keep this going.”

Esteban Gutierrez: 
“It was really, really fun. It was a very nice experience. Obviously being the first time on an oval, I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of the race and I struggled to get up to speed, but after a few laps, I got more and more comfortable and I was using my tools in the car to try to handle it in traffic, which is the trickiest part. I want to thank my competitors because they were very fair to me. It was fair racing, good racing and I really enjoyed it out there today. It wasn’t easy with the different lanes and traffic because once you get really close you have a completely different car so you need to anticipate a lot and for that you need a lot of experience. Every time with more and more experience I will be able to anticipate that better, but I think today was a really good start. I also want to thank the team because they were really good on giving me all the tools and the information on doing a good job today.

Ed Jones: “We missed it with the race setup and the car was a handful to drive today. On the positive side, we brought the car back home in one piece. Now, on to the next one.”

Ed Carpenter: “There are a lot of emotions after a day like today. I finished 12th and that’s not what I came here to do. It’s disappointing from that standpoint. Obviously, I’m happy for JR (Hildebrand) and the result he got for the team, but I’m also just disappointed in my day. It’s hard to get past those emotions. We don’t totally know what happened; we definitely had a weight jacker failure which sure didn’t help anything. Hopefully we’ll be able to catch a break with one of my last two races this year and get a good result, hopefully get a win. It’s been too long.”

JR Hildebrand: “It feels good. I definitely think that under some slightly different circumstances we had a car to win out there. The guys made a great call to pit early and get out into the lead at the end and try to hustle all the way. I think if we’d been on equal tires with Helio (Castroneves) we’d have had something for him there at the end – but all and all really excited for the Fuzzy’s Vodka crew to get on the podium here again. They definitely deserved it after the weekend that we had. Hopefully this gets us kicked off for a stretch run going into the rest of the year.”

Takuma Sato: “It was a tough race. We had a great qualifying and the start (of the race) was pretty exciting. I was able to hold a good position. The car was working well, and then about halfway through the stint I started to lose balance and grip and was gradually losing position. By the third stint, we saw something strange with our right-rear tire, it was behaving unusual – the tire pressure never came up. We were so loose that we had to come in for an unscheduled pit stop, which put me down two laps because immediately after we pitted, there was a yellow flag – very, very unfortunate timing. The rest of the race I was trying to un-lap myself and it was a tough one. It is a shame after we had a great start. It’s not ideal to finish like this, but hopefully we can be strong in Toronto and collect more points.”

Marco Andretti: “We got derailed in qualifying and started our race from behind.  We could never really gain track position and took a gamble and pitted just before the red flag. If we would have had a yellow we would have been looking good. It was worth the gamble and only cost us two positions. Throughout the whole day, we just never had the track position we needed.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “That was a tough drive. We just made the car better and better through the whole race and I wasn’t really happy with the car at all. I have to give big credit to my team and my engineer, Ray Gosselin, for putting the right setup on the car. We finally got it to where I like it – some remnants of the past. A little more straight-line speed and we could’ve given these guys a run for their money. Congratulations to Helio (Castroneves) – it’s great to see him win again. He’s been right there knocking on the door for so long. Hats off to the No. 28 DHL team and thank you to all the Iowa fans, we love coming here. Hopefully we can come back here at night some time, because that is my favorite.”

Charlie Kimball: “A really hard day – I’m happy to bring it back in one piece honestly. The car stepped out on me a couple of times and I caught it right up to the wall in Turn 4 once. With the heat and the wind, it was just a really challenging day. I think the balance itself was hit or miss – we weren’t great. Overall, we just weren’t quite quick enough once the newness of the tires had worn off. It was really about the middle to the end of the fuel stint where we were losing a bunch of time to everyone around us. We’ll go back and look at it to try to figure out how to make the No. 83 Tresiba Honda work on a short oval track.”

Alexander Rossi: “For most of the race we were trying to tune in and get the car drivable which we were able to do by the end. The last stint was the only time I felt comfortable in the car all day. It’s unfortunate because I thought we had a really good race car through this weekend, but the temperature caught us by surprise and I don’t think we accounted enough for the effect it had on the car. Congrats to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) for getting on the podium and being where he should be.”

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