Castroneves Scales Michigan

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Helio Castroneves was able to hold off a hard charging Vitor Meira during the last laps of the rain delayed Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway to win his fourth race of 2006 and reclaim the championship points lead.

Castroneves, the polesitter for the 200 lap event, led the final 24 laps after the final round of pit stops and crossed the finish line with a 1.6229 second margin over Meira to win his 11th race of his IRL IndyCar Series career – the second most in history.

"I started flying like a maniac at the end. I was very aggressive. With 10 (laps) to go, I thought everything was good, but I saw an orange dot in my mirror, and I couldn't believe he (Vitor Meira) caught us like that," said Castroneves.

Reigning Champion Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan and Tomas Scheckter rounded out the top five positions for the 11th race of the IRL IndyCar Series season.

At the beginning of the 2 1/2 hour rain delayed event, however, it appeared that the other Penske Racing machine would be celebrating in Victory Lane as Sam Hornish Jr. took over the lead from Castroneves on the first green flag lap of the race (Lap 3) and led 37 laps in the early part of the race.

However, Hornish’s fortunes turned quickly as he suffered engine problems and was forced to the pits after completing just 61 laps.

Unable to return to the track, Hornish finished in 19th place.

"I’m the only guy to have a problem. So what are we going to do about it? I don’t know what the answer is," said Hornish. "We had good power and we could lead when we wanted to. We’ve got a big hole to dig ourselves out of again. We had a real good car and led right from the beginning. We had the power and we could lead when we wanted to."

Another disgruntled driver after the race was Danica Patrick, who dropped out of the race only two laps from the end.

Patrick was sitting in seventh place when she appeared to run out of gas. Upon reaching pit lane, she took off her helmet, threw it and kicked a nearby orange barrel in a show of disgust.

"It was a brutal day," said Patrick, who finished 17th as a result of the incident.

As a result of today’s events, Hornish relinquished the lead IRL IndyCar Series standings to Castroneves, who catapulted from third with the victory. The Braziliian now leads Hornish by eight points with Wheldon, Scott Dixon and Meira sitting in the top five.

After today, only three more races remain on the 2006 IRL IndyCar schedule. The Series returns to action in two weeks time with the running of the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway, followed by the August 27th race at Infineon Raceway and the season finale on September 10 at Chicagoland Speedway.

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