Helio Castroneves produced the perfect ending to a remarkable Month of May by capturing victory in the Indianapolis 500, his third in the event and Team Penske's record 15th success.

Just five weeks on from facing possible incarceration on tax evasion charges, the Brazilian added to pole position, fastest time on Carb Day and success in the annual pre-race pit-stop challenge by leading the last 58 laps to add to both his, and Penske's, Brickyard legacy.

Despite a mid-race blip, when a gearbox glitch gave rival Target Chip Ganassi Racing a shot at repeating in Victory Lane, Castroneves and Penske were in touch for most of the 500 miles, eventually sweeping back past 2008 winner Scott Dixon in turn one to reclaim the lead, and pulling away from the race's final caution to lead Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick across the famed row of bricks.

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Although Castroneves got the jump on the field at the second time of asking - his initial attempt at taking the green having been waved off due to the margin he had built up - his lead lasted only for seven laps, all of which were run under yellow after Mario Moraes and Marco Andretti got together in turn three, ending the Brazilian's race on the spot and Andretti's after a brief return that only served to confirm that his handling was too awry to be safe.

On the restart, Castroneves' advantage was erased immediately as Dario Franchitti swept under the Penske entry into turn one, and the Scot underlined Ganassi's challenge by leading through to the first round of pit-stops, taken two laps after Ryan Hunter-Reay had compounded a miserable month by scrapping one of the Vision Racing Dallaras against, first, the turn four wall and then several acres of concrete as he careered down pit-lane.

Franchitti led off pit-lane too, with Ryan Briscoe getting the jump on team-mate Castroneves as the familiar white-and-red cars followed the Scot back on track, and the Australian was the next to taste the lead as he passed Franchitti into turn one on lap 54. He retained the advantage through the second spree of stops, facilitated by Graham Rahal replicating his 2008 exit against the turn four wall while trying to pass the slower Milka Duno, while Dixon came into the reckoning by beating his team-mate off pit-road to make it two Ganassi cars behind the leading Penske.

It wasn't long before the reigning IndyCar champion hit the front either, but Dixon's move was created by a bizarre loss of form for Briscoe, who reported that his car suddenly had no grip, the #6 causing the pack to go four-wide in places as it plummeted down the order and the train swept past. By the time he was able to stop for a new set of tyres, the Australian was in danger of dropping out of the top 20, and returned to the fray a little further back.

He was running 23rd when veteran Davey Hamilton brought out the race's fourth caution after collecting the wall in turn four, the ensuing pit-stops seeing Franchitti getting back out in front, ahead of Dixon, Tony Kanaan, while Castroneves lurked back in fourth, albeit seemingly unable to do anything about the trio ahead of him. The Brazilian was followed by impressive rookie Raphael Matos, who was holding Patrick and Will Power at bay.

The restart, on lap 90, confirmed that Dixon was not prepared to play second fiddle to his team-mate, Franchitti despatched at turn one, but the Ganassi battle was interrupted by a big hit for the luckless Kanaan. The Brazilian arrived at Indianapolis at the head of the point standings, but his Brickyard misfortune saw the #11 entry turn sharp right on the back straight thanks to a suspected driveshaft failure, before careering into the following bend at unabated speed. Kanaan was a passenger, but still managed to escape unhurt, if a little battered, bruised and dazed.

The halfway mark passed with Dixon still leading Franchitti, but the opening of the pit-lane shuffled the order behind, with Power up to third, ahead of Matos, Castroneves, Wheldon, Townsend Bell, Paul Tracy, Ed Carpenter and Patrick, who overshot her marks and had to be pushed back in order to receive fuel. At the same point, Oriol Servia's strong return to the IndyCar Series ended as the Rahal Letterman entry was pushed behind the wall with fuel pressure problems, joining Robert Doornbos among the previously unreported casualties.

Dixon continued to hold sway through the following restart and lap 132 caution, brought about when Nelson Philippe suffered his second brush with the SAFER Barrier, but there was chaos in the pits as Franchitti, Matos and Vitor Meira all ran into problems. Franchitti saw second place go begging as he misread his wheelman's signal and attempted to leave with the fuel hose attached, but that was nothing compared to Meira's woes, as fire erupted around the AJ Foyt entry as he pulled the hose clean off its mounting, spreading fuel across pit-lane. Remarkably, the Brazilian, runner-up at IMS last season, managed to rejoin - and on the lead lap to boot - but his race was not to go much further.

Dixon had Castroneves for company at the restart, and the Brazilian finally reclaimed the lead on lap 142 as he went inside the Ganassi car into turn one, immediately able to open out a cushion, and helped by Power also making a move on Dixon for second.

The order was shuffled again when Justin Wilson brought out the next caution with his own spin into the turn four wall - to complement the rotation he performed on pit-road earlier in the race - and Briscoe, for all his previous travails, appeared behind team-mate Castroneves at the front of the line. In truth, the Australian had been short-fuelled to get him into that position, both to help Castroneves' bid and to also capitalise on any future yellows. Wheldon and Patrick also took advantage of an uncharacteristically poor stop for Dixon, who dropped to seventh behind Bell and Power, while Carpenter, Franchitti and rookie Mike Conway rounded out the top ten.

Further back, Matos remained a dark horse, having taken a couple of opportunities to top off his fuel load, but saw any hope of springing a surprise for the tiny Luczo Dragon team when he tangled with Meira entering turn one on lap 173. Who was to blame was hard to decipher, with both appearing to move enough to touch wheels, but it was a hard hit - with Meira performing a remarkable wall-rider impression as he backed the Foyt car around the short-chute - that left both drivers reporting back pain and being retained at local medical facilities.

Briscoe's need to add fuel removed him from the equation at the front of the pack, leaving Castroneves with a rear gunner in the battle for victory. Penske, however, continued to have the weapon of choice and, at the green, the Brazilian checked out, leaving Wheldon and Patrick to scrap over second, with Bell closing the gap on the pair enough to contemplate a miracle result of his own.

The 13-lap run to the flag proved to be uneventful, with Castroneves eventually coming home nearly two seconds ahead of his pursuers. Perhaps unable to believe what he had achieved, the Brazilian was a little slow to emerge from the cockpit, but made a beeline for the fence, where he was joined by his crew as he accepted the raucous plaudits of a packed crowd seemingly delighted to witness his redemption.

Wheldon managed to hold on under pressure from Patrick, while Bell crossed the line a similar handful of tenths behind the AGR driver. Power rounded out the top five, like those immediately ahead of him recording a personal best at the Brickyard, while Dixon had to make do with sixth, one ahead of his team-mate.

Carpenter, Tracy and Hideki Mutoh rounded out the top ten, but their stories paled into insignificance when ranged against Castroneves' feelgood fairytale.