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'Spiderman' holds on under Hornish assault.

"I was pushing as hard as I could without putting it in the wall," the champion said, "That's what everybody had to do today - it was a constant battle to find the right set-up on the car.

"The two times I thought I had him in traffic, the yellow flag came out as soon as I got a run. We're happy to come out of here with a second-place finish, however."

Castroneves' route to the head of the standings was aided by early race misfortune for two if his main rivals. Dixon led confidently from the start, opening out a slight lead over the rest of the field, but hit trouble at his first pit-stop. Although the refuelling and tyre change went without a hitch, the Ganassi driver ground to a halt as he tried to pull away. A failure in the drivetrain was diagnosed, and the new Zealander lost over 40 laps while repairs were effected in an attempt to gain points from any incident on track.

"It's so disappointing to have a day end like this," Dixon sighed, having pulled out out of the running when it became apparent that there was nothing to be gained from staying on track, "We had such a strong car at the beginning of the race, I thought we had a chance to win it, but we broke a half-shaft on the first pit-stop.

"The guys did a great job to get it fixed and get us back out there, and we got a few more points by doing that. We'll just have to go out there and try to win the last three races."

Kanaan started the race leading the point standings, but left holding third place after his clash with Scheckter allowed both Castroneves and de Ferran to edge ahead of him. The AGR and Ganassi cars were running in close contention with the leaders during the early stages, but came together in turn two with just 26 laps when Scheckter made contact with the left rear of Kanaan's car and pitched both into the wall. Predictably, there were conflicting views over whose fault the accident was.

"I had been trying to get around Tony for several laps but, when we went into the corner, everyone just checked up and I ended up in the back of him," the South African, who initially appeared to have not noticed Kanaan slowing, said, "It was a bad ending to a good weekend for us."

“I really don't know what happened," Kanaan insisted, "When you race close to each other, sometimes that happens. Somebody hit me from behind. Helio was trying pass Kenny [Brack] and we all slowed down to get into the corner. It looks like Tomas must not have seen me and hit me from the back. It's a tough break because this is when we need the points.”

Through the confusion came Herta, de Ferran and Alex Barron, all of whom looked likely candidates for the final podium position inn the closing stages. Barron's interest faded, however, after he, too, hit the wall.

“We were definitely poised to make a run for the win in the closing laps, and I feel terrible about what happened," the series' resident 'supersub' admitted, "I thought I felt something a little funny in the back of the car the lap before the accident and, on the next lap, I was moving to get around the lapped car of Buddy Rice and the rear got away from me coming around turn three. That was it - it's a shame.”

The incident, when Barron was tracking down Hornish, allowed Herta to return to the podium.



Related Pictures

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Helio Castroneves celebrates victory the only way he knows how.
Helio Castroneves apexes the hairpin during practice at Long Beach -- Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 finished third. (Photo by LAT/ Russell LaBounty for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 finished third. (Photo by LAT/ Russell LaBounty for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 finished third. (Photo by LAT/ Russell LaBounty for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 finished third. (Photo by LAT/ Michael L. Levitt for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves celebrates (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Mike Conway, Will Power, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves sits in his machine on pit lane during the 2014 Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday March 18. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves takes to the course during the 2014 Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on Monday, March 17. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves` broken front wing is changed during the IndyCar finale, MATV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California on Saturday, October 19, 2013. (Picture Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon commiserates runner-up Helio Castroneves after winning the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship, after finishing in fifth place in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Saturday night, October 19 2013. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves in action during qualifying for the MAVTV 500 2013 season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. (Photo Credit: John Cote for IndyCar Media.)
Helio Castroneves on pit lane at sunset under the floodlights at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California during practice for the MAVTV 500 2013 season finale. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media.)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet, qualified second Friday, October 18, 2013 for Saturday night’s IndyCar finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. (Photo Credit: Michael L. Levitt for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Chevrolet, maintains the driver`s point lead with an 18th place finish Saturday October 5, 2013 during the Grand Prix of Houston IndyCar Race 1 in Houston, Texas. (Photo Credit: Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves during practice for the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT on Friday, August 30 2013. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, qualified 5th Saturday, August 24, 2013 for Sunday`s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Todd Davis for Chevy Racing)

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