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St Pete 2007: Helio nearly perfect.


Marlboro Team Penske's Helio Castroneves led 95 of 100 laps as he successfully defended his 2006 Honda Indy Grand Prix crown on the 1.8-mile St Petersburg street circuit.

From pole position Castroneves was only headed thanks to the pit strategy of others and even went as far as to nudge an out-of-sequence Dan Wheldon out of the way before the green flag waved for the second of five restarts during the course of the race.

Escaping with no penalty, Castroneves only lost the lead for three laps from lap 34 onwards when Andretti-Green Racing's Marco Andretti inherited top spot during a round of green flag pitstops.

"It was all about consistency today," the Brazilian admitted, "Team Penske was incredible. The car was very consistent, although a little bit tough on the cold tyres.

"Almost everything was working perfectly. The gears started to wear a little and I had to be careful to not make any mistakes, especially on the brake point where the gears were tough. It was a great weekend. We worked very hard and it paid off in the end."

While nobody in the 18-car field had the machinery under them to pass Castroneves, Wheldon's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon shadowed the fence-climbing Brazilian all the way home.

After dispatching Andretti for second place during the first green flag run between laps six and 28, Dixon never let Castroneves get more than a couple of seconds ahead and brought the gap down to just six-tenths of a second at the chequered flag after a dogged, but ultimately fruitless, chase.

"It's great for Target Chip Ganassi Racing," the Kiwi insisted after netting his second straight runners-up result of the season, "Two second place finishes after only two races this year puts us in the points lead.

"Helio had us covered, but I think we had a little more speed on cold tyres. We didn't make any mistakes and had a clean race, so it was a good day for us. Dan had a bit of a rough day, but he'll bounce back at the next race."



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Helio Castroneves - Team Penske   [pic credit: IRL/McQueeney]
Scott Dixon - Target Chip Ganassi Racing   [pic credit: IRL/McQueeney]
Tony Kanaan - Andretti Green Racing   [pic credit: IRL/McQueeney]
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest.  (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates with his daughter Mikaella after winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest.  (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves wins pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves slides into his machine prior to the first session of the Open Test at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves crosses the start/finish line during the Open Test at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves in his pit stand following practice for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)

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