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Castroneves Looking To Become Mr. Four Time

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 27 2012

Helio Castroneves can become a member of an elite fraternity at Indianapolis. (INDYCAR / LAT USA)

INDIANAPOLIS –  Helio Castroneves has another chance on Sunday to join a very elite group at the Indianapolis 500.

A victory for Castroneves, who will start sixth in the 33-car field, would be his fourth, putting him in a class with only A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears.

Castroneves figures he has a secret weapon on his side this year, with Mears taking over from Team Penske president Tim Cindric as his race spotter.

“With Rick, he sure knows how to win,’’ Helio said with a chuckle. “But I ask him, `Rick, what should I do now,’ and he just says, `Go! Go!’’

Of course, Castroneves, one of only three former race winners in the field, knows it will be far from an easy task to get that fourth win. He last won here from the pole in 2009 and has finished ninth and 17th the last two years.

But the personable Brazilian is an optimist. He is already thinking about the strategy he should use in the final stage of the 200-lap event.

“I’m sure you’ve heard already a lot of people saying whoever is leading in the last two laps is going to be

Helio Castroneves. (INDYCAR / LAT USA)

a sitting duck,’’ Castroneves said. “With that, your strategy might have to change.’’

For the first 198 laps, he and everyone else are likely to have a very interesting, competitive race, thanks to all-new cars and engines running in the IZOD IndyCar Series this season.

“The fans going to be really happy because whoever has a chance to lead is going to lead,’’ Castroneves said. “I believe there is gong to be about a 10-car pack, then some space, then a five-car pack, then a space and an eight-car pack. I don’t believe the first three cars are going to take off like in the past.’’

The only thing that everyone agrees on when talking about this year’s race is that it’s going to be really hot.

With temperatures forecast in the mid-90s and no rain to wash off the rubber on the track for the past 10 days, the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval will be even more slick and treacherous than usual.

“It’s going to be a tough day with the heat,’’ said former winner Scott Dixon. “When it gets hotter, the cars get harder to drive. But I think it will make the racing really good.’’

Two-time Indy winner Dario Franchitti, Dixon’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, said the heat may actually be a plus for him.

“It’s going to make the track slick, but it should help us,’’ the Scot said. “We have a good understanding of this place and good engineers. That’s why we train so hard. Indy isn’t a physical race, but three hours in that kind of heat, the dehydration will be pretty intense.’’

Although most people expect the engines to be fine in the race, officials decided to keep the turbocharger boost level lower than what was allowed for qualifying in an effort to make sure the new Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus engines make it through the entire race.

“There are no guarantees,’’ Franchitti said. “When manufacturers push to put out new engines, there is

Helio Castroneves wins the 2009 Indy 500. (RacinToday.com file photo by Mark Henderson/Really Really Big Industries)

always the possibility of failures. But I know our team is working very, very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, and I’m sure all the other teams are doing the same.’’

Besides engine reliability, another concern for the drivers on Sunday is that the lower horsepower being produced by the engines is going to insure what Castroneves predicted – that most of the field is going to be racing very close together.

“I think we’re actually going to be a little too close to each other because nobody can really escape,’’ said Oriol Servia. “I think that by reducing the power, they made it so we have to be at full throttle all the time. What you want to have is more power so you can brake in the turns and get back up to full speed in a hurry when you need to.

“What it means, though, is we have the most exciting Indy 500 we’ve had in many years. We all still have to learn what this car does on big tracks, and we’ve never had 20 cars together. We are still learning, so it will be an exciting one.’’

Sunday’s field includes eight rookies, among them Formula One veterans Rubens Barichello and Jean Alesi.

“This field is full of great drivers,’’ said Marco Andretti, who is hoping to be the first member of his famous racing family to win here since grandfather Mario won in 1969. “We always have rookies here. I’m not worried about that.’’

With all the question marks going into the race and no one jumping out as an odds-on favorite, Castroneves thinks he has a great chance to make history.

“I know I don’t have the fastest car, but I know from the beginning to the end what I need to do,’’ Castroneves said. “I know when it’s full tank, when it’s half tank and when it’s empty. This feels pretty much like when I won here in 2001 and I knew exactly what I needed to do and the adjustments I needed to make to be right on top of it and I like it very much.

“Hopefully, no mistakes in the pits and a little bit of luck and we can get it done.’’

The starting field for the 96th Indianapolis 500 IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (2) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:38.9514 ( 226.484)

2. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:38.9537 ( 226.481)

3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:39.1233 ( 226.240)

4. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara- Chevrolet, 02:40.6766 ( 225.456)

5. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:39.7004 (225.422)

6. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:39.8780 (225.172)

7. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.6879 (224.037)

8. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:40.1775 (224.751)

9. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:40.4119 ( 224.422)

10. (8) Rubens Barrichello, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:40.5253 ( 224.264)

11. (98) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.7144 ( 224.000)

12. (38) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.7437 ( 223.959)

13. (25) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:40.7720 ( 223.920)

14. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.8093 ( 223.868)

15. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.9413 ( 223.684)

16. (50) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.0144 ( 223.582)

17. (19) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.0866 ( 223.482)

18. (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:41.1299 ( 223.422)

19. (15) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.1517 ( 223.392)

20. (99) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.3377 ( 223.134)

21. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.4865 ( 222.929)

22. (30) Michel Jourdain, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.5124 ( 222.893)

23. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.5138 ( 222.891)

24. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:41.5720 ( 222.811)

25. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:40.8666 (223.760)

26. (41) Wade Cunningham, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.2484 (223.258)

27. (22) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:41.8754 (222.393)

28. (20T) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:41.9262 (222.324)

29. (14) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 02:41.9293 (222.319)

30. (6) Katherine Legge, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:42.4374 (221.624)

31. (39) Bryan Clauson, Dallara-Chevrolet, 02:47.6671 (214.455)

32. (78) Simona De Silverstor, Dallara-Lotus, 02:47.9162 (214.393)

33. (64) Jean Alesi, Dallara-Lotus, 02:51.3516 (210.094)

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 27 2012
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