27 March 2012
Castroneves unstoppable in St Pete opener
"Certainly the start of the race I didn't want to do the same mistakes that we did last year, so I want to make sure we cooled down, we kept cool, we lost probably one position, but everything was fine until the play started playing in our hand," he said, going on to praise the input of his race strategy John Erickson and engineer Ron Ruzewski on how things evolved.
"John and Ron decided, 'Let's do something crazy!'" explained Castroneves "I saw my teammates pit, we decided to go in the opposite way and it paid off."
On a day when there were so many uncertainties that one 'madcap' strategy seemed as sensible as the next, it was Helio and his support group who had hit upon the winning one. Scott Dixon, who had started alongside Castroneves on the third row of the grid for the race, ended up with the next-best strategy for the day but he was still left for dead by an unstoppable force of racing nature.
"Helio was just really fast. He was fast, but also able to save fuel," conceded Dixon, who felt that he and his Ganassi crew had had the right strategy but hadn't been able to find the balance between fuel conservation and raw pace.
"We did a really good job for what we did at saving fuel, but obviously we didn't have the speed and we seemed to burn the tyres up really quick," he said. "We definitely had a good strategy there after me missing the pit call, and then the race sort of cruised on there. We just couldn't seem to keep the tires under us, it was really quick for the first sort of five or six laps maybe after ten laps and then it sort of fell off from there."
The St Petersburg street course has not been a kind one to the Kiwi in the past and he confessed that he was simply happy to complete the race for once. "I haven't finished here in a while, so it's nice to come out here in St Pete and get some good points," he said. "But Helio was really quick and I could have pushed the envelope going into one there, but all in all I think I could have ended the day in tears later on."
Dixon finished just ahead of Andretti Autosport duo Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe, who managed to finish in exactly the same positions in which they had started even as the rest of the field went back and forth around them by finding and sticking to the fuel conservation plan.
"It's good to get a podium under our belt," said Hunter-Reay, while lamenting being too far off the back of the leaders to make it a better show for fans at the end. "It was a fuel strategy race and the Chevy engine was getting great fuel mileage, but we had to really take our time to finish to the end," he explained. "We took a gamble on making it two stops instead of three and that's just part of the game."
"I feel really good!" said his new team mate James Hinchcliffe, who steps into the GoDaddy.com car in 2012 in place of the now-departed Danica Patrick. He didn't race here last year because his race deal at Newman/Haas was late coming together, but that didn't hold him back on Sunday.
"Obviously coming into my second year with a great team, it's a team that is used to performing," he said of his new team this season, Andretti Autosport. "So, you want to perform. We did, as a team, a good job yesterday to lock out that second row and then today with the strategy and some good cars we were able to bring it back in third and fourth."
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