An emotional Helio Castroneves choked back tears in Victory Lane after becoming the first foreign-born three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 in a commanding run to the flag in the 93rd running of the event.

The affable Brazilian performed his signature fence climb along the front straightaway after taking the chequered flag in only his third race since returning to the IndyCar Series following a federal court acquittal on charges of tax evasion, and admitted that winning provided an emotional conclusion to a traumatic few weeks.

"This is incredible," Castroneves said in the immediate aftermath of the race, "I think my tears speak for everything. What a great team.

"I just have to thank, first of all, the Lord for giving me this opportunity, to be strong, to have a family that I have. I have to think Roger Penske, Tim Cindric, my guys, Phillip Morris, all the associates, Verizon, everybody because they gave my life back. I'm here today because of those guys - and obviously the fans. You guys don't understand. You guys kept me strong. You guys are the best. I'm honoured to have fans like you. Thank you so much."

Having led the opening lap from pole, and the next seven under caution, Castroneves only returned to the front when he passed 2008 race winner Scott Dixon on lap 142 and led the final 59 circuits around the historic 2.5-mile oval. He was required one further round of pit-stops and another restart after hitting the front for the second time, but had too much pace for the second place battle involving Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick, eventually crossing the line 1.9819secs ahead of the Briton.

"During the race, I was just trying to take it easy, I didn't want to push it," the Brazilian revealed, "I was waiting for the right time and I just asked [the team] to put me in the lead and I will have no problem.

"In fact, we didn't change anything in the car. As soon as they put me in the lead, boom, the car was just incredible. We were running 220s, even saving fuel, and [Tim Cindric] kept telling me 'you've got to save fuel, got to save fuel'. In the back straight, I could not hear because I have a problem with the radio, and it was the best thing. When we needed the speed, we were right there and, when we didn't need the speed, we were very close to the other guys.

"I had a good gap between the second place, and I was just managing, making sure... I couldn't hear how many laps to go, so I tried to keep looking to the number of laps, and they keep telling me ten..., so I'm just like 'okay, forget it, I'll keep going like this.. 219s, 218s'. I think I had enough car, so I didn't even ask the lap time that the second place was doing. At that point, I was just trying to finish the race and manage the gap that I had and hopefully not get in traffic because, this year, the field was so tight, I can see it was very hard to get traffic."

There was one moment of concern for Castroneves following countryman Tony Kanaan's dramatic exit just before half-distance, but the Penske crew was able to prevent any problems from scuppering his run to victory.

"I saw, on the straightaway, a little smoke probably from bottoming and, all of a sudden, I'm not sure if it was the left rear or right rear suspension broke, but he hit pretty hard," he said of the accident, "I saw a piece of wing coming straight to me, and I even told the guys to check the airbox because I thought something hit, but didn't hit my helmet. There was so much debris.

"We stopped right on that yellow, and we found there was a piece of carbon stuck into the right front or left front tyre, so it was lucky that everybody stopped. We were able to go back and continue the race."

Castroneves is the ninth driver to win the Indianapolis 500 at least three times, but the first to do so since Penske favourite Rick Mears recorded the third of four race wins in 1988. The win capped a perfect month for the Brazilian, who became the first driver since Buddy Rice in 2004 to sweep the Peak Performance Pole Award, Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Challenge and the race, and he joins Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser on the list of those to have ended their careers with three 500 victories.

"I feel honoured to be in this category of drivers," the Brazilian admitted, "When I go to the dinners with the old-timers, I feel pretty honoured just to be there. Now, being in this type of category, wow, with such the incredible names, I feel blessed. But, without a team, without good people surround you, you cannot make that and, like I said many times, Team Penske has won so many times, they prepared this race."

Four-time winners include AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Mears, but Castroneves proved reluctant to talk about joining them, or even surpassing their mark, in future races.

"I tell you, you can't be thinking about five without making three - we just made three and are now thinking about a fourth," he smiled, "I will think about it, dream about it, but we've got to work for it. Certainly, I have the team to do that, but we have a long way to go. Right now, for me, I'm just going to enjoy this moment because it's very special."