After three years of finishing second (and one year where he felt he won but was robbed by a blocking call), Penske driver Helio Castroneves has finally won on the runways of the Edmonton Airport Circuit, beating RLL’s Takuma Sato by less than a second. It was Castroneves’s second win of the season and the 27th of his career, tying him with Johnny Rutherford in the all-time winner’s list.
The win also moved Castroneves into second place in points, 23 behind leader Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosports.
Castroneves won through racecraft and tire strategy—strategy encompassing the whole race weekend.
The Brazilian driver took second on Lap 28 by capitalizing on a battle between Target-Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti and race leader Alex Tagliani of Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Castroneves waited until Franchitti was too busy looking ahead to look behind, and snuck inside the second-place driver.
The Penske driver spent the 25 laps pressuring Tagliani, who wouldn’t let him pass. On Lap 52 Castroneves’s race strategist Tim Cindric called the Brazilian into the pits for a set of new tires, which some teams had saved through the weekend’s practice and qualifying sessions.
Tagliani then had to pit earlier than planned; Castroneves on new tires would be too much of a threat to “Tags” on old rubber. Tagliani took longer in the pits and rejoined behind his rival. Also, he had to use scuffed tires, that is, tires with a few laps on them, instead of brand new tires. This turned out to be a four-position difference.
Tagliani fell back to fifth, as the rest of the leaders on new tires, outperformed him. Sato moved into second, and harassed Castroneves all the way to the finish line, but couldn’t find a way past. It was Sato’s best career IndyCar finish.
After the race, Castroneves said he thrived under the pressure from Sato. “When he is all over my gearbox, that’s when I have to stay absolutely focused all the time—I do better,” he told NBC Sports.
Penske’s Will Power turned in a typically excellent drive, advancing to third from 17th. He is third in points, three behind his teammate Castroneves.
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