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Castroneves looks to keep rising in Edmonton

by
Chris Estrada
| Jul 20, 2012

 
 
Quiet is not a word normally associated with Helio Castroneves.
 
But in the midst of Ryan Hunter-Reay winning three consecutive races, Will Power hitting an extended rough patch as of late, and Canada going cuckoo for native son James Hinchcliffe, the buzz around the gregarious Brazilian has been ebbing recently.
 
All the while, however, he’s been stringing together consistent results that have him in the midst of an ever-evolving race for the IZOD IndyCar Series title. Winning it is the one goal that he’s yet to reach in his career and at this point of the season, it’s the only goal he has.
 
There’s no time to be crushed about not getting as much ink in the papers.
 
“From my aspect, I don’t pay attention to that,” he says with all the laser beam focus you’d expect from a contender.
 
As the IndyCars roll into Edmonton this weekend, Castroneves is looking to stay in the fight with a victory – especially after close calls last month at Milwaukee and Iowa that saw him lead good portions of those races, but fail to take the checkered flag in the end.
 
“On the ovals, we were very strong but the results did not translate to our performance,” said Castroneves, who nonetheless knows the importance of maximizing points when wins aren’t possible.
 
“I felt disappointed [after those races], but at the end of the day, I’ll take it. It’s more points in the bag and you gotta have them to have a chance to fight.”
 
With the help of four straight top-10 finishes – including a sixth-place run in Toronto two weekends ago -- Castroneves has climbed to third in the standings at 46 points behind new leader Ryan Hunter-Reay (and just 12 points off Penske teammate Will Power in second place).
 
And the Edmonton Indy (Sun., 2:45 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network) would appear to be the perfect place for Castroneves to make a serious move in the championship. Most thoughts of him at this track may revolve around what happened after his late blocking penalty in 2010, but he’s also earned three podium finishes in four starts at City Center Airport.
 
Altogether, the overall experience at Edmonton appears to be one of his favorites on the circuit.
 
“I really enjoy [Edmonton] and the challenge of this place,” said Castroneves, who called both the old and current CCA layouts “unique and different” and didn’t give a preference for either one. “You have the long straights and some very interesting bumps.
 
“And everywhere you go [in the city], they enjoy having us here. They’re very aware of it and they give a great welcome…It just adds more.”
 
2012 has been a turnaround campaign for Castroneves after he suffered through the worst season of his major open-wheel career in 2011. Last year, he went winless for the first time since 1999 (his sophomore year in Champ Car) and fell to 11th in points, his worst showing in the standings since 2007, when he finished sixth.
 
This year has been much better for him, with a win in the season-opening round at St. Petersburg and eight top-10 finishes in 10 races. The consistency has paid off, and with usual title suspects such as Power, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti all having multiple problems through the season, it’s allowed Castroneves to rise up the standings table at the best possible time.
 
But in order to keep moving upward in this final stretch of events, he’ll have to not only stop a white-hot Hunter-Reay but also deal with his own teammate Power, a two-time Edmonton winner and the race’s defending champion.
 
“Whatever you have, he has,” said Castroneves when asked about working with Power and balancing being a good teammate and being a championship rival. “The good side is you know what you’ve got and you can use different strategies, but the bad side is exactly the same thing. That’s the name of the game…and sometimes, it can be the worst-case scenario.”
 
“The good news is that being with such a team like Team Penske, I have great teammates that can help get the cars going fast and that makes you better.”
 
Still, there comes a point where camaraderie must take a back seat to competition. Inside the cockpit, Castroneves can’t worry about Power or any of the others in the title race.
 
All he can do is focus on himself.
 
“I can’t worry about the circumstances outside of my control,” he said. “I can only control what happens on my end and hope that today is my day.”
 
We’ll see if Sunday will indeed be his day.
 
--
 
HELIO CASTRONEVES IN EDMONTON
 
2008: Started 2nd, finished 2nd, led 35 laps.
 
2009: Started 3rd, finished 2nd, led two laps.
 
2010: Started 2nd, finished 10th, led 17 laps. Penalized for blocking while leading on final restart at Lap 93 of 95.
 
2011: Started 9th, finished 2nd, led one lap.

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