Helio Castroneves of Brazil celebrates in front of the Borg-Warner trophy after he won the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race in Indianapolis, Indiana, May 24, 2009.
Photograph by: Reuters, edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON - Consistency had long been linked to Helio Castroneves, the Brazilian veteran who until last season, had never finished lower than sixth in the standings.
But in 2011 he did not win one race, which is particularly noteworthy given that he had won at least one race in each of his previous 11 seasons with Penske. By season’s end, Castroneves was parked in 11th place in the IndyCar drivers’ standings.
“I know I’m not very good at math, but when you don’t complete half of the races, you don’t finish well,” he said “But I was thinking, ‘What the heck is going on here?’
“There was no magic fix, but I love what I do — even more than I did before — so the motivation was there. That’s why I was very excited (the chassis and engines) were changing ... and we were able to get back to what I know best. And even myself. I changed my driving style so I could accommodate the car. If you have an open mind, it helps a lot.
“I was a very good go-karter, so why not try to use my left foot? And hey, it’s worked.”
Every car this season is equipped with a new Dallara chassis that features two pedals located on each side of the steering column. Drivers had to brake with their left foot rather than their right, an adaptation that some could not handle.
Dario Franchitti, for instance, switched the brake pedal over to the right. Castroneves is still using his left foot — and so far, so good.
The 37-year-old won the opening race of the season, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — his first trip back to victory lane since September 2010, when he captured the Twin Ring Motegi.
He’s since posted seven top 10 finishes, including a third in Alabama, a fourth in Sao Paulo and a sixth place result in Toronto — all which has vaulted him into third place in the driver’s standings. And it just so happens that the City Centre Airport track is one of Castroneves’s favorites.
Since first setting foot in Edmonton in 2008, the man who has won three times at the famed Indianapolis 500 has finished second on four occasions and is the unofficial winner of the 2010 event.
That Sunday afternoon, Castroneves was leading with four laps remaining but failed to serve a blocking penalty and was consequently black-flagged. He dropped from first to 10th at the finish, with Scott Dixon taking the victory. Castroneves, irate with the decision, was later fined $60,000 for his altercations with officials in pit lane.
“I love it there, and every time you go a place where you do well, it’s a no-brainer. I won once there, unfortunately, it did not count, but I do want to do it again and I know we can. We have the car.”
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