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Castroneves breaks winless streak at Gateway

10 August 2003

Helio Castroneves capitalised on some rare ill-fortune for Scott Dixon to take victory in Sunday's Emerson Indy 250 at the Gateway International Raceway and break a winless streak that dated back to last year's Indianapolis 500.

The Brazilian born Marlboro Team Penske driver led the final 42 laps a rather processional 200-lap affair around Gateway's 1.25-mile paperclip shaped layout to lead Tony Kanaan across the finishing line by eight tenths of a second.

Castroneves took the lead for the second and final time of the afternoon when Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force-Toyota started to stutter coming onto the back straight with its gearbox broken.

Dixon, who entered the weekend with a scant one point advantage over Kanaan in the standings, had built an eight second lead over the field during his single 78-lap tenure at the head of the field before the third caution of the day bunched the field on lap 137 and undid the New Zealander's hard work.

Unperturbed, Dixon calmly moved away from Castroneves and Kanaan on the lap 143 re-start and appeared to be in cruise control until his gearbox problem struck.

The caution flag waved again as the IRL safety team were sent to retrieve Dixon's stranded car but Castroneves showed nerves of steel on the restart as he held off Kanaan and teammate and defending Gateway winner Gil de Ferran with ease.

Although Kanaan gained some ground in the final five laps as Castroneves took a cautious approach to a pile of lapped cars, the Andretti Green Racing man was never given the opportunity to make a move for the lead and dutifully followed his childhood friend home in second spot. Kanaan's afternoon was brightened however with the knowledge that, with Dixon's 15th place non-finish, he reclaimed the IRL IndyCar points lead by a margin of seven points over third place man de Ferran and ten over Castroneves.

Dixon, who suffered his first DNF since Indianapolis, dropped to fourth in points, 24 behind Kanaan.

Just missing out on the podium in fourth place was the second TCGR G Force-Toyota of Tomas Scheckter while English born rookie Dan Wheldon rounded out the top five with another confidence-inducing drive for the AGR stable. Sam Hornish Jr brought the old Gen III Chevrolet engine home in sixth position in its last IRL appearance while Tora Takagi and Greg Ray were the only other two drivers to go the full distance in seventh and eighth places respectively.

Team Menard's Vitor Meira brought his Dallara-Chevrolet home two laps down in ninth position while Scott Sharp finished 10th in his back-up Kelley Racing Dallara-Toyota.

Chevrolet powered quartet Buddy Lazier, Robbie Buhl, Sarah Fisher and Buddy Rice rounded out the finishers, all a number of laps down with Rice's first race with the latest Chevrolet engine spoiled by a continuation of his practice gearbox woes.

In addition to Dixon and Barron, who both suffered gearbox problems and Kenny Brack who recorded a rare retirement for Team Rahal with electrical gremlins, AJ Foyt IV retired with a box full of neutrals while Roger Yasukawa, Al Unser Jr and Bryan Herta all failed to finish with accident related damage.

The day was soured however by a nasty pit lane incident triggered when Herta and Unser Jr made contact with one of Unser Jr's pit crew getting hit in the process. Kelley Racing's left rear tyre carrier Anton Julian (sp?) was transported directly to a local hospital where he was later described as conscious and in a serious but stable condition.







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