Helio Castroneves' hopes of wresting a last-gasp IndyCar Series triumph from Scott Dixon's grasp at Chicagoland Speedway might appear to be over following the loss of his qualifying time, but the Brazilian insists that starting from the back of the field won't change his approach in any way.
The Team Penske driver has slashed 48 points from Dixon's advantage over the past two races, but still needs to close a 30-point deficit in the season finale. A treat appeared to be in store when Castroneves qualified fourth fastest in Joliet, just two places behind his rival, but that was before the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner was penalised for repeatedly running below the white line on the backstretch.
Although he figured that he had done little wrong, Castroneves accepted the punishment with surprising equanimity - before claiming that starting last of the 28 runners would not make any difference to his previous gameplan.
“It's good that Ryan [Briscoe] is right up there," the Brazilian admitted, "If I can't lead the most laps, we're going to try to do everything we can to make sure Ryan leads the most laps. We've got to win, so hopefully that's the way it will come out in the end.
"Everybody knows our plan - there's not much to hide. We're going to go full throttle and we're going to go for the win and do what we need to do to beat Scott. It will be fun, guys, it's going to be fun.”
Chicagoland is one of the few IndyCar venues where Castroneves has yet to win, but he anticipates a thrilling end to the season despite his qualifying faux pas
“It's hard going to a place where there are so many variables and so many other drivers and competitors," he commented, "The difference can be one car - even if one car is one mile-an-hour faster when you have the draft, it definitely accomplishes that.
"What I need to do is what I've been doing since I started racing here, so there is not much of a difference. We've got a goal, and we've got a plan. We need to win, and we're going to try everything we can to do that.”