BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 11, 2010) - Helio Castroneves used solid pit strategy to his advantage Sunday to win the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and lead another strong showing by Team Penske.
Castroneves' 0.0507-second victory over Scott Dixon at Barber Motorsports Park was Team Penske's third win in three races this season and moved Castroneves into second place in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings behind teammate Will Power, who won the first two races of the year and finished fourth Sunday.
With the win, Castroneves has now posted victories in a record 11 consecutive seasons for Team Penske. The win was also Castroneves' first as a father. Before Sunday's race, he indicated he wanted to take a photo in Victory Lane with his daughter Mikaella, who was born on December 29, 2009. After the race, he did just that as he celebrated on the podium along with the Team Penske crew.
"I wanted her to be able to share this moment with me," said Castroneves. "I wanted it to be sooner than later."
Castroneves led 20 of the 90 laps of the race, the first IndyCar Series event at the beautiful 2.38-mile road course located in the hills of Alabama. After electing not to pit during an early caution flag period, Castroneves and the No. 3 Team Penske squad ran second behind Marco Andretti for much of the afternoon. Castroneves was able to stretch his fuel windows a bit farther than Andretti, who led a race-high 58 laps, and when Andretti had to pit with eight laps remaining, Castroneves took the lead for good. Castroneves then held off a hard-charging Dixon on a restart with three laps left in the race.
"This biggest challenge was it was hard to pass. The turbulence here was so difficult. You were just trying not to make a mistake," said Castroneves. "I felt like the Team Penske car was better than Marco's but, unfortunately, I just couldn't pass him. I was just patient and waiting for an opportunity, and well, I guess we were able to be smart enough to save a lot of fuel. Towards the end, we just had a yellow flag. I didn't ask for that. Especially when you have Scott Dixon and those guys behind you. So I just decided to make sure I did not give any opportunities for those guys, and that's what I did. I knew what the car was capable of doing. Sometimes you've got to count with a little luck. So today was a great day for Team Penske, and especially the No. 3 guys."
With Ryan Briscoe's sixth-place finish, all three Team Penske cars finished among the top-10 for the second consecutive race. Sunday's result marked the 147th win in Team Penske's rich open-wheel racing history.
"This was an incredible job by everyone," added Castroneves. "So far we keep going forward and working together. We've got a long way to go this season, but we're headed in the right direction."
Power had won the pole position for Sunday's race and led early before Castroneves took command. Though Power's two-race win streak came to an end, he still leads the championship standings after three races. His lead over second-place Castroneves is now 32 points (136-104).
"It is great having Helio win, which makes it three wins to start the season for Team Penske," said Power. "In the strategy meeting before the race we talked about it and we knew that a caution in the early part of the race would not be to our favor. We made the best of it though. The Verizon Team Penske car was fast today. The guys did a great job in the pits. We are still in the points lead heading into Long Beach. I think we are going to be strong there."
Briscoe, who made some impressive passes on the tight road course to improve from his ninth-place starting spot, is now sixth in the standings, 57 points behind Power.
"I am pretty happy with a top-six today in the Team Penske car," Briscoe said. "We made some key passes there at the end getting past Wilson, Kanaan and Conway. The guys did great in the pits and Roger (Penske) called a great race. We were really in great shape until the last yellow came out since a few guys in front of us were going to have to pit. If it was not for that yellow, we would have been on the podium."
Team Penske has little time to rest. The season resumes next weekend with the 36th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Live coverage of next Sunday's race begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on Versus.