IndyCar » 7 July 2014
Second was best I could get, admits Helio
Helio Castroneves might have been pipped to chequered flag at Pocono by Juan Pablo Montoya, but the weekend's still done wonders for his title hopes.
Penske's Helio Castroneves had a big smile on his face on Sunday afternoon at Pocono Raceway, even after he'd been narrowly edged to the win by his own team mate Juan Pablo Montoya.
"Congrats to Montoya," he said after the race. "Are you kidding me? This guy is unbelievable. Coming back after 15 years and winning a race? He did a great job. As soon as they signed him I knew he would be an asset, and a headache, for us!"
Castroneves conceded that second was the best he could have realistically hoped for, admitting that once again he hadn't had the pace raw to match that of Montoya and Will Power in the other Penske machines.
"I want to win bad [but] I did not have the speed that Juan Pablo had," he said. "I still don't think I had the speed of the other guys. They were much faster than me and we've got to sit down and figure out why.
"But in the end I was just getting better and better and the car was getting better, and we just were waiting there," he continued. "It's a tough race because the last year was won by fuel mileage and this year the plan changed in the middle, but [team owner] Roger [Penske] had great strategies and put us in a great spot.
"Today for us it was great because we ended up collecting a lot of points, and that's the way we're going for it. Now we're looking for the next ones and continuing with the same pace."
Although he's won the Indianapolis 500 three times, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship itself has always eluded him. The 39-year-old clearly considers it unfinished business that he desperately wants to put right - especially now that he leaves Pocono tied for the lead on points with Power.
"I want it as much as anybody probably because we've been here for a long time, and now a great opportunity," he said. "Now tied for the championship, what a great deal. This is just absolutely awesome, and we've got to keep moving forward and not thinking back."
But as Mercedes know in F1, having two drivers both seriously in contention for a championship can lead to problems and friction between team mates - and some of that appeared to bubble to the surface on Sunday when Power was penalised for blocking Castroneves late in the race.
"What happens on the track stays on the track," said Castroneves, insisting that there would be no spill over from the incident into the general team atmosphere. "I had a lot of teammates in the past, and we always try to keep that kind of way. Outside the track we can discuss or in the truck, if there was a problem, personal problem or something, but at the end of the day, we continue.
"Like I said, we were racing hard," he added. "I have no hard feelings. I would have done something different probably, but I don't think there is hard feelings for us in terms of what you do or not. And I think Juan Pablo also applies that same motto.
"Well today he's in the victory circle, so it does work," Castroneves pointed out. "It's not about us, it's about Team Penske, and we want to get this championship no matter what - but obviously we need to be smart as well."
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