4 June 2014
Confident Castroneves ‘not playing around’
IndyCar veteran Helio Castroneves has announced himself as a title contender as the series prepares to return to the scene of a dominant 2013 victory.
Helio Castroneves was living in the moment while revisiting the past and looking to the future as the champagne flew on the podium at Belle Isle over the weekend.
The Brazilian had just claimed his first Indycar Series victory since June 2013 at Texas Motor Speedway, and at the racetrack where he earned his maiden series win in June 2000, but was already eyeing the next race on the schedule.
"I'm already thinking about Texas," said Castroneves, referring to this weekend's Firestone 600 under the lights on the high-banked oval, "We are on it. We're not playing around."
Castroneves is brimming with confidence - and championship points - following three consecutive top-five finishes, including the 1.6836-second victory over Team Penske team-mate Will Power in the 70-lap second race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual double-header in Detroit on Sunday.
Having finished as runner-up in the Indianapolis 500 on 25 May, missing out on a record-tying fourth victory by 0.06secs, and recorded a fifth-place finish in race one at Belle Isle, the 205-point haul - the most by any driver in rounds 5-7 - has vaulted Castroneves to within 19 points of Power in the championship standings.
"I'm very confident with my team," said Castroneves, whose 29th career win tied Team Penske consultant and four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears for eleventh on the all-time list, "The Hitachi car, we know what we got, especially after Indy. Ovals, we improved quite a lot. I am able to pay attention to details that I haven't seen before, able to work with engineers better than before. We are definitely ready."
Power, who has a pair of runner-up finishes to complement his two victories this season, said Castroneves' drive has been unwavering since they became team-mates in 2009, which has been a valuable lesson in Power's pursuits of his first championship.
"He's just very strong,” the Australian noted, “The guy has passion for winning and motorsport itself. This sport is very tough on you, [especially for] a guy like him that hasn't won a championship. He's been so close, and he'll be a contender this year. To me, he's better than when I first turned up on the scene."
At Texas last year, Castroneves led a field-high 132 of the 228 laps and went on to win by 4.69secs over Ryan Hunter-Reay, while Power, who started from the pole, finished seventh.
"My team-mate absolutely destroyed the field last year," Power said, "No excuses on the car front. That is just confidence on ovals. We will just have to turn up there, see what we got, and try to have a good weekend."
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