TO REMAIN IN CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT
Helio Castroneves snapped the longest winless streak of his career to move closer to his first IndyCar Series championship.
Castroneves, who hadn’t won since April 2007 – a span of 30 races, took the checkered flag in the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County at Infineon Raceway to claim a victory in a record-setting eighth consecutive season. The 13th win of his IndyCar Series career allowed Castroneves to shave 35 points from his deficit in the championship standings. He trails Scott Dixon, who finished 12th, by 43 points with two races remaining.
Castroneves led 51 of 80 laps after starting from the pole and beat his teammate, Ryan Briscoe, to the finish line by 5.2926 seconds.
The 1-2 finish by Team Penske was especially meaningful to the team, which saw its two primary cars damaged by fire earlier in the week.
Andretti Green Racing’s Tony Kanaan finished third, Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dan Wheldon was fourth and AGR’s Danica Patrick was fifth.
Also on Aug. 24, Pablo Donoso earned his first career Firestone Indy Lights victory, winning the Valley of the Moon 100 by 2.0601 seconds over Logan Gomez. Raphael Matos finished sixth, extending his points lead to three over Richard Antinucci, who finished seventh. The season finale is Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Luczo Dragon Racing, which is co-owned by Bay Area businessman Steve Luczo, has added the Detroit Indy Grand Prix to its 2008 race schedule, bringing its total number of races to six.
Including the race at Infineon Raceway, LDR will close out the season by running in the final three races.
JAY PENSKE (Co-owner, Luczo Dragon Racing): "Luczo Dragon Racing is excited to add another race to its 2008 season with Symantec. We believe the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle is one of the great stops on the IndyCar Series schedule. Tomas loves the track, and this will give us more road experience as we continue to prepare for what we hope will be a full season in 2009."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 12 Symantec Luczo Dragon Racing): "I am really looking forward to Belle Isle. It is a very technical and quick track. I love wall-to-wall driving, and this track rewards drivers who are aggressive and willing to take a few risks."
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE NOTES:
This is Pablo Donoso’s first career victory in Firestone Indy Lights. This is the first victory for Team Moore Racing. Donoso becomes the record-setting ninth driver to win a race this season. Other winners include Dillon Battistini, Raphael Matos, Richard Antinucci, J.R. Hildebrand, Bobby Wilson, Ana Beatriz, James Davison and Franck Perera. Logan Gomez finished a season-best second. His previous best was third in St. Petersburg 2. Ana Beatriz finished third, her eighth top-five finish of the season. J.R. Hildebrand finished fourth, his eighth top-five finish of the season. Raphael Matos finished sixth and holds a three-point lead over Richard Antinucci in the championship with one race remaining. Antinucci finished seventh. ***
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE QUOTES:
PABLO DONOSO (No. 22 TMR-Cristal-Xtreme Coil Drilling, first): “This is great. This is a beautiful day. I’m pretty happy, and I love this track. I won here in 2005 (in Star Mazda), so now I’ve repeated in 2008. I had an awesome car. Team Moore Racing gave me a beautiful car. I did the job. I finished first. But it’s just not me, it’s the team, my family, my manager. This is for all the people who supported me in Chile.”
LOGAN GOMEZ (No. 23 IZOD Menards Guthrie Racing, second): “We had something for (Pablo Donoso), it’s just every time you go into a braking zone, all the air is off the cars. And with it being so hot today and a bunch of different rubber on the track, we were just locking up tires. We had a few moments out there, I fell back to Pablo (Donoso), but overall it was a good race. It was a big improvement from where we started at the Open Test, when we were about 11th or 12th. So we’ll take a fifth and a second from a weekend in California.”
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, third): “It was a good race. Unfortunately, during the restart I was a little bit stuck behind (Pablo) Donoso. It was so hard to pass, but when someone made a mistake you could pass, and we got another podium. It’s fantastic. I’m really thankful for my Healthy Choice Sam Schmidt crew. They worked really hard this weekend. I don’t know what happened behind us, but I hope we can still fight for the championship.”
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 Allied Building Products, fourth): “It was just tough to pass out there. We were running on a little bit less aero than everyone else. It was helping us stay up, but it was making it so every time I got close I’d kind of lose the front end and wash back off. As you can see, we’ve got guys that were running faster lap times than us yesterday that couldn’t get by, so that’s kind of unfortunate. We could have really stood to finish ahead of Bia (Ana Beatriz) just for the points. But we’re looking pretty good going into Chicago. We’ve had good runs on the big tracks, so I think we should be looking pretty good.”
FRANCK PERERA (CJ Consulting Guthrie Racing, fifth): “Yesterday was a good race. It was a good opportunity to pick out the numbers (for the inverted start), but I picked the wrong number. I think the way they do that is not very good. It’s good for all the drivers especially at this track because there’s not much passing, so it’s a very boring race. It was good that (Richard) Antinucci, (Raphael) Matos and myself did some fighting out there. The car was good again, but you cannot overtake here. I just tried to be close to them, and I knew that I could have the opportunity to pass them, and it happened. After that I had just one lap and I was catching them (the race leaders) like crazy. I think I was almost the fastest lap, so I thought we could win again today for sure.”
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, sixth): “I feel great. That’s what we needed coming out of here. The inversion of the second race made things very, very difficult. I was clearly faster than Richard (Antinucci). Unfortunately, he blocked me four or five times. He didn’t give me any room, and that’s what happened. I’m very happy that I made the pass and continue leading the championship, and we’ll go into Chicago competing for the championship.”
RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, seventh): “All of the opposition is very difficult this year to pass. Everyone was stationary, and we’re all having control gaps. There was a DNF car in the middle of Turn 8, and he was on line, so we all got a little bunched up. I chose my line from the beginning. In the backstraight, (Raphael) Matos went to the outside and cut the track, so he came out right behind by cutting the track. That’s how he gained the advantage. I chose the inside from the beginning, knowing that he was right on my tail and I would get passed. I can’t bank on having the race review that later on so I defended my position from the inside, and he choose the outside and then back inside and just lifted me in the air and pushed me off. I lost two places. I’m OK, a little bruised but I’m OK.&rdq uo;
Celebrated filmmaker George Lucas visited the Andretti Green Racing pits to view the graphics on Marco Andretti’s No. 26 “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” entry.
Lucas, who lives in Modesto, Calif., is the creator of the epic Star Wars saga and the archaeologist-adventurer character Indiana Jones. He’s also a lifelong IndyCar racing fan.
GEORGE LUCAS: “(Lucasfilm has) been hooked up (with AGR) for a while, and now we’re doing this, and it’s been a great relationship. The new movie is an animated feature that is sort of a precursor to a TV series that is coming out in the fall. It gets a lot of notoriety for the team. Especially with the Stars Wars brand and Indiana Jones, we already have more notoriety than we need. If we’re going to give it to something, we might as well give it to racing. I’ve lived through the Andretti legends and now Marco is carrying that on.”
INDYCAR SERIES POST-RACE NOTES:
This is Helio Castroneves’ first victory of the season and the 13th of his career. Castroneves has finished second seven times this season. This is his first victory since winning at St. Petersburg in 2007, a span of 30 starts. Castroneves has won races in eight consecutive seasons, establishing a new IndyCar Series record. Castroneves made his 110th consecutive start, tying Sam Hornish Jr. for the second-longest streak in series history. This is the seventh time in his career that Castroneves has won from the pole. Ryan Briscoe finished second, his fourth podium finish of the season. This is the third time this season and 28th time overall that teammates have finished 1-2. Briscoe and Castroneves also finished 1-2 at Mid-Ohio earlier this season. This is the 28th IndyCar Series victory for Team Penske. Tony Kanaan finished third, his ninth top-five finish of the season. Dan Wheldon finished fourth, his 10th top-five finish of the season. Kanaan and Wheldon are eliminated from the championship. Danica Patrick finished fifth, her best finish on a road/street course this season. E.J. Viso finished sixth, his best finish since fourth at St. Petersburg. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing drivers Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson finished eighth and ninth, respectively, the first time both drivers finished in the top 10 since St. Petersburg. Scott Dixon finished 12th, his lowest finish since 22nd at St. Petersburg. It his third finish outside the top 10 this season. ***
INDYCAR SERIES POST-RACE QUOTES:
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, first): “People kept telling me that the door (to victory lane) would finally open, and today we broke through it. The door was really stuck, but what an incredible effort by Team Penske. I can’t thank them enough. I’m really excited about today, because the car was extremely fast. For me, it was really fun pushing and pushing every lap for the entire race. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s what made us win. We didn’t save any fuel. We just kept going and going, and it paid off in the end.” (Did this work out just as you planned it?): “We didn’t plan it like that, but with the traffic, we changed the plans lap by lap and we pitted when we thought we were going to slow down. We never let our guard down. We just kept pushing and we came away with a win.” (Wh at does the win mean for morale?): “The attitude of those guys is priceless. Everyone has been working so hard since last Wednesday. Taking cars to Charlotte and bringing cars back from Charlotte, converting cars from oval to road course. You’re talking about two days work in 12 hours. When you see guys doing that, you just want to do your best. Not that we don’t always give our best, but you want to make it a special day, and today it was.”
ROGER PENSKE (Owner, Team Penske): “The fraternity pulled together with us and helped us get back together. All these guys they are all racers, a great group of guys. It is all about people, and Helio (Castroneves) and (Ryan) Briscoe really did the job today. We have tough competition out there. Helio wanted to get that win, and wow what a way to do it under the adversity we had this week. I want to thank everyone that called us and helped us over the last several days.”
TIM CINDRIC (President, Penske Performance, Inc.): “Once again it shows the determination that this group has. It wasn’t easy the way that yellow came out. It was a bit of a mixed bag. Fortunately we were able to mix strategies and play it out from there. We would not have won this race if Helio hadn’t driven the wheels off it when he needed to. It is a testament to the organization. We will keep going and see where we end up at the end of the year.” (On the championship): “I think our approach next weekend is the same, we go for broke. That is the only thing that is going to get us where we need to be.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 12th): “I'm not upset with anybody in particular, we just did absolutely nothing right. I don't know why we stayed out when the car in front of us is three seconds slower and we couldn't make up any track position. Everything we did was wrong." (About points race): "We still lost a ton of points. This is a race that's very tough, unfortunately, we got the bad end of the stick. Hopefully, we'll turn it around next time." (43 points still is a good lead with two races left): "When you lose 30-whatever today, it makes it a lot easier to come back." (Is this the low point for you): "It was definitely a bad day. I guess we just need to shrug it off and come back strong next week.”
CHIP GANASSI (Owner, Target Chip Ganassi Racing): “Well, those things happen, and we have to go into the next couple races. I think if Helio (Castroneves) wins the next two we just have to place fourth, so we should be able to do that. We just have to stay behind him. We’re OK. We have a long way to go yet.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, second): “It’s unbelievable. To start the week off the way we did, with the fire and everything, and then dominate with a one-two qualifying and race result, it’s definitely the strongest we’ve been all year. I’m so happy for Helio (Castroneves). Not getting a win all year and getting all of those seconds was killing him. So I’m really happy for him to win the race. He was the quickest car out there today. It’s just great for the team. Big congrats to Team Penske.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, third): “The only thing I could do was risk. We were going for the win. I have to say what a boring race. There was no passing, saving fuel from Lap 1. I did not have any fun. I’m not taking it for granted, but maybe we have to look at the (fuel) windows, so we don’t have people pitting on Lap 5. We race for the fans, and although they are crazy here today, it was kind of boring.” (About fuel strategy): “They gave me a number above the one I needed to make it, and I was making it. I was controlling well, and on the last lap they said go, and I did.”
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth): “I give Chip (Ganassi) a lot of credit. He came into the team meeting today, and he’s got a lot of guests here from Target, and we wanted to perform well. Scott’s (Dixon) obviously in the championship hunt, and he gave us the order that we were going to do something very alternative, and we did, and it just kind of played out perfectly. It was a great job from him and everybody. The pit stops were really good. It was just one of those races. There was a pretty clear track most of the time so it worked out.” (About the first yellow) “We didn’t think like that. We said that we were going to commit to it and whatever happens, happens. We started in the back. It is so difficult trying to pass. Tony (Kanaan) was really slow at the end, but he was quick enough in the right plac es so it was hard to pass. That was a shame. It was a good day for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s unfortunate for Scott (Dixon). He was quick all weekend. That’s the thing with these tracks, it’s hard to overtake. He’s one of the best guys out there. I think it’s the strategy that cost him, but he’ll bounce back, and he knows he’s got a strong teammate in his corner to look after him.”
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, fifth): “I am very proud of the Motorola team today. Kyle (Moyer) and my crew did a great job. We started in the ninth position, and to get a top-five finish at a course that is very difficult to pass at is great. We need to use this momentum going into Belle Isle next week and hopefully have a repeat finish.”
E.J. VISO (No. 33 PDVSA HVM Racing, sixth): “I think we did a great job. The car was very competitive and Michael (Cannon) gave us great strategy today to lead the race and be up front. The team, I have to give them a ton of credit also. The pit stops were fast and helped us maintain our position. We have some room to improve and run against the bigger teams, but today proved that we can compete with them.”
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard, seventh): “What a great day for us. I’ve got to thank everybody on the Delphi National Guard pit stand, because it was JB (team owner John Barnes), David Cripps and the guys that really made this happen for us. They took a risk early, and it paid off for us. At the end of the race, I took one shot at passing (E.J.) Viso, but I was losing rear brakes badly and the back was skating around on me. It was a great points day for us too, especially after starting 18th. I think a few weeks ago we were in 16th position in the championship, and now we’re in 11th. We’ve still got two more races and more positions to make up.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps, eighth): “We had a good pit strategy, and we had picked it from the very beginning. We decided we wanted to go two stops, and we saved as much fuel as we could. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and we would have to save a lot more fuel than most did, but at the end of the day it worked out for us. The car was the best I have had it all weekend. I was definitely pretty happy with it. It certainly gave me something to race with.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, ninth): “The McDonald’s team was running strong, but once that yellow happened it really mixed everything up and we had to decide which strategy to go on. Helio was on our same strategy, and he won the race, but he was able to get by people. A couple of guys between me and him weren’t able to overtake the backmarkers, and it allowed the people on the other strategy to capitalize. It’s disappointing because I thought the McDonald’s car was good, and we had a strong day, but we couldn’t get a result out of it. We did everything we could, so we just have to move on to the next one.”
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone Aug. 31 at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season concludes Sept. 7 with the SunRichGourmet.com 100 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will air live at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 7 on ESPN2. The Carneros 100 and Valley of the Moon 100 at 5 p.m. Aug. 28 on ESPN2.