Rear View Mirror: Motegi
April 24, 2006 | 11:37 A.M. EST
That’s the question on everybody’s mind as the IRL IndyCar Series heads into the month of May and the biggest event in American open-wheel competition, the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves, the winner of back to back races this year – the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and this past weekend’s Indy Japan 300 – will look to mimic rival Wheldon’s three race win streak in 2005, which concluded when the defending champion won the Indianapolis 500.
"Everybody on our team is really looking forward to May," said Castroneves, "We have a long month to work. We’re going to continue thinking like that, and hopefully the result will pay off."
Long known for his exuberant post victory celebrations that include scaling fences, "Spiderman" heads to Indianapolis as the clear favorite – and not only because of this year’s fantastic run.
Of Castroneves’ nine career IRL IndyCar victories, two of them came at the Brickyard.
One person who certainly will be looking to stop him from doing a "Wheldon" is the defending champion himself.
"Helio's got a little bit of momentum," said Wheldon. "But he certainly can be stopped, and we'll do our best to stop it."
Franchitti’s tough luck goes global
After starting the season with a strong fifth place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway, things appeared to be looking pretty good for Dario Franchitti.
Entering the second race of the season at St. Petersburg, it appeared the Scotsman would be a contender throughout the season as he led almost all of the practices and won the pole for the event.
Since that time, however, it appears that lady luck has turned its back on the driver of the No. 27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Honda Dallara.
Even with the most dominant car on the streets of St. Pete, Franchitti suffered steering issues and was forced to retire early.
His strong car followed him to Japan, but so did the bad luck.
The Andretti-Green driver was running with the leaders throughout most of the race until a miscue on pit road late in the race cost him an opportunity for the win.
"I don't really know what to say at this point. We didn't have a winning car today but the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car was a good third-place car, which we are not delighted about but certainly would have taken it," said Franchitti.
The incident, which occurred on lap 145, was a result of Franchitti moving over the timing and scoring line that was slightly raised on pit lane. As he did, the car took off and hit the tire that was going to replace the one on the inside rear of his car. That tire struck crewman Steve Price who was taken to an area hospital for further evaluation.
Matsuura best in national race
Super Aguri Fernandez Racing’s Kosuke Matsuura claimed a new record on Saturday, best finish by a Japanese driver at IRL’s Japan race.
It was the driver’s third consecutive top-10 result of the season.
"Of course I am disappointed because I expected a better result, but seventh was not too bad," said Matsuura.
This result breaks a tie between himself and Tora Takagi, both of whom had a best finish of eighth in this event.
"This was the most important race for me this year, and I had a lot of fans here. The team did a great job and I didn’t make any mistakes."