IndyCar: Helio Castroneves wins 2nd Detroit Grand Prix of weekend
DETROIT — Helio Castroneves celebrated in his signature style, climbing a fence, in the same place where he did it for the first time many years ago.
Castroneves’ crew joined him above the track in front of roaring fans and it was fitting because his behind-the-scenes teammates helped him have his way with the competition.
“I did not expect that,” he said after easily winning the second Detroit Grand Prix race of the weekend Sunday, finishing 1.6836 seconds ahead of Penske Racing teammate Will Power. “They deserved it.
“That was great to see them there.”
It was here in Detroit where Castroneves raced to the first of his 29 victories in 2000 and scaled the safety fence.
And, the 39-year-old Brazilian is still winning and climbing with more composure.
“I was able to hold my emotions better,” he said. “I guess I’m getting older.”
Team owner and unofficial race promoter Roger Penske was not a part of the fence-climbing celebration, but he had to be one of the happiest guys on Belle Isle because Castroneves and Power finished first and second.
“You dream about these weekends,” Penske said. “To be as strong as we were and see both guys in the winner’s circle.”
Castroneves’ lead was so large that when he made his final pit stop on Lap 49 he still was ahead when he got back on the track.
The competition got closer after cautions led to restarts with seven and three laps left, but Castroneves could not be caught in part because Power did not want to risk ruining his teammate’s path to victory by possibly hitting him.
“Because of Roger, I definitely wasn’t going to race him hard,” Power said.
Castroneves has 29 IndyCar victories, tying Rick Mears for 11th on the career.
“Oh, really?” Castroneves asked. “Wow. What an honor.”
Castroneves finished 0.060 seconds behind Ryan Hunter-Reay last week in the Indianapolis 500 in his bid to join Mears as a four-time winner in open-wheel racing’s signature event.
Power won Saturday and played a big part in a sloppy start Sunday.
He was penalized for avoidable contact on the opening lap, failing to turn right and causing Josef Newgarden to hit him from behind to trigger a three-car crash. That led to the first of two cautions within the first ten laps after a false start briefly delayed the race beginning.
Despite a drive-through penalty, Power was able to pull into contention later in the race with aggressive moves.
No one, though, was faster than Castroneves.
Hunter-Reay, meanwhile, had a poor ending to a rough weekend after the biggest win of his career.
He started 21st in the 22-car field on Saturday and Sunday because of crashes. Hunter-Reay ended the first race by crashing on the final lap and the second one did not last as long due to an electrical problem knocking him out after 61 laps.
“You name it, we had the problem this weekend,” he said. “I’m just glad to be getting out of here.”
Hunter-Reay left Detroit — heading to New York for an appearance Monday night with David Letterman — without the IndyCar points lead.
He entered the weekend with a 40-point lead on Power and exits it in third, 27 points behind Power and eight more behind Castroneves.
“Major hit,” Hunter-Reay acknowledged.
Honda had dominated the Detroit Grand Prix the previous two years — in the shadow of Chevy’s world headquarters — and had the fastest car last week at the Indy 500.
The engine manufacture did not fare better than fifth on Sunday with James Hinchcliffe following Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon. Pole-sitter Takuma Sato was spun twice, dropping him to 18th.