Spiderman Steals The Show

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Helio Castroneves was able to capture the lead from Scott Dixon with five laps to go and went on to win the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg without much of a challenge as a late race accident made the race finish under a yellow flag.

The victory for "Spiderman," who celebrated by climbing the fence, was the 14th in an Indy car and first on a road-course in the IRL IndyCar Series.

"I was really pushing out there. I was trying to go as fast as I could," said the Brazilian Penske Racing driver. "Even when I was in the lead, I was getting too close to the wall, trying to make up time.

"Everyone was telling me 'go for it, go for it.' I drove it like I stole it."

The accident which prevented a green flag finish occurred on lap 97 when fourth place Tomas Scheckter and fifth place Buddy Rice collided as they went into Turn 4. Scheckter went airborne momentarily before coming back down and hitting the tire barrier.

The cleanup could not be completed in time and Castroneves was able to claim the 50th road-course victory for Penske Racing.

Scott Dixon was able to finish in second place despite suffering a broken endplate on the front wing, which caused rubbing of his left front tire for over half the race.

"The car was pretty good, we just didn’t have the speed in the end because of the front wing," commented Dixon, who despite all the damage was actually in the lead from laps 88 to 95, when he entered the pits. "I think with a good front wing, we would have been solid,"

Even if the race would have resumed, the Target Chip Ganassi driver felt that not only would he not be fast enough to challenge for the lead, but that he would also lose his second place position.

"Everybody is saying 'oh it’s sad that it ended under yellow.' I don’t think the positions would have changed," said Dixon, who scored his fourth consecutive top-10 result. "Tony and myself might have had a bit of a fight there because I couldn’t turn the car."

Tony Kanaan finished third despite having opportunities to pass Dixon when the two got close to one another after all of the drivers cycled through their final pit stops during the waning laps of the race.

"The three of us started to fight like crazy, basically (after the pit stops). We drove the wheels off the cars," said the Andretti-Green driver, who set the fastest lap on of the race with a lap of 63.584 seconds, 101.912 mph on circuit 71. "I just couldn’t pass (Scott) on the straightaway.

"I believe that we had a third place car today and we finished third. The guys that finished in front of us deserved to finish where they finished."

Bryan Herta and Vitor Meira completed the top five while Danica Patrick and Kosuke Matsuura were the only other drivers to complete all 100 laps of the event.

While the race stayed caution free through the first 52 laps, problems plagued polesitter Dario Franchitti in the early going. The Andretti-Green driver, who has been the fastest throughout the event weekend, had been pacing the field through the first 13 laps until he entered the pits with steering problems after slowing down in Turn 5.

"After five laps I already had a problem, I couldn’t turn the left-handers. At that point, I wasn't too worried because I was pulling away from the field still even though I was giving away a lot through the lefts, I felt like things were under control here," said Franchitti. "But eventually I went down to Turn 1 and the (wheel) bearing and the right front wishbone let go, and that was it."

While the parts involved were changed as result of a early morning incident (to read more, refer to the notebook above), the driver and team did not feel it was to blame for his retirement.

"Our luck is going to change sometime, this is incredible. As I said, with three wheels on the Klein Tools-Jim Beam car we were still driving away from them, so it's very frustrating."

Last year’s race winner, Dan Wheldon, was working his way up from a “disappointing” 13th place starting position and was working through the top-10 when he was hit from behind by Sam Hornish Jr. during the first caution of the race. The hit was enough to lift his rear tires and break the lower wishbone of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, forcing it to retire 57 laps into the 100 lap event.

"I don't know, I must have cut across or something because I seemed to catch him and go over," said Wheldon, who was driving in his home race as he lives in the area.

The incident with Hornish was not the first time he made contact on the day. Earlier, he attempted to pass Marco Andretti and the two collided.

"Nothing seemed to go right for me. I tried to get inside of some people, and we had a couple of incidents. I guess that's just street course racing. It's just disappointing when you qualify down in 13th, you get into trouble, so that's not good."

The IRL IndyCar Series now has a two week break before returning for competition at the Twin Ring Motegi track in Japan on April 22nd.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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