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.