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Castroneves in heart of title battle

Helio Castroneves celebrates his Edmonton win.
Special to FOX Sports HELIO CASTRONEVES
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Helio Castroneves is enjoying a week off – well, sort of – after racing to the IZOD IndyCar Series win at Edmonton last weekend.

That victory, his second of the season, put Castroneves solidly back into the heart of the championship race as he now trails leader Ryan Hunter-Reay by just 23 points.

This week, Castroneves reviews his Edmonton run and looks ahead to gaining more ground at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5:

MORE ABOUT HELIO

For a more in-depth look at the popular “Dancing With the Stars” champion and race-winning driver, check out his acclaimed autobiography “Victory Road: The Ride of My Life,” available through Amazon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @h3lio and at heliocastroneves.com.

What a great week for Team Penske. That was awesome.

When you’re going to a place where the results have been so positive – like for us in Edmonton – it’s like, OK, you believe it’s going to happen and it did. We had a plan between myself and my engineer and we executed the first day, when we were fastest in practice.

We were off a little bit with our performance on the track during qualifying on Saturday, but then the race results were there. I think even with the rain, which we saw on Saturday during qualifying, we were able to put on a good show for the fans and that’s important.

One of the biggest keys for us in the race was deciding to pit first when we were battling for first place with Alex Tagliani. I wasn’t sure about the strategy at the time, because I knew we’d have to have a great stop and great out lap after the stop, but we were able to do that and stay in front of not only Tagliani but Takuma Sato as well after their pit stops.

We never trailed after that.

We decided to approach this race as sort of a democracy. When we made some calls all through the weekend, we were united as a group. It was never, “I want this” or “they want that” or “because you guys did this, now it’s my turn to make a call.” Everyone on the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental team had a say and we came up with a game plan. It was very cool to see all of us working together.

The decisions were made by all of us. If it was a good decision, great. If it was not a good decision, hey, we all made that too. That’s why I gave credit to all my guys after the race – this was really a team victory.

It was awesome. And the last 14 laps, that was perfect. We had a great battle trying to hold off Sato, who did a really good job putting the pressure on me and keeping me focused. I kept doing what I was doing until we saw the checkered flag.

After finishing second three times in Edmonton, and having such a tough result in 2010 when I thought a win was taken from us on a controversial blocking call, it was good to finally get one at that place. I had fun climbing the fence and maybe you saw, I was also pretty excited in my TV interview after the race.

The win was very exciting and a lot of people have congratulated us. It was also a good day for my teammate, Will Power, who drove from 17th to finish third. Overall, a great day for Team Penske.

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It also helped us in the championship race. It was big for us to take over second place and close the gap to Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had won three races in a row.

This year we have never given up. We never thought we were outside of having a chance. That’s what we’ve been thinking every race. We knew we had to win to make a push for the championship and now we are right there. You can only control the stuff you can control and we’ve never lost sight of that.

We have three teams in the championship race – Hunter-Reay, our No. 3 team and Will’s Verizon Team Penske guys. It’s kind of cool that we are all three Chevrolet drivers. It’s great for them in their first year back in IndyCar. But I can’t worry about those other guys.

I am doing all I can do to put myself closer to that title and that’s what we’re doing. It’s great we have good competition, so right now it’s important for us to build points. A lot can happen in the last four races.

We’re going to Mid-Ohio to test this week. When we go back there next week, we have some appearances for our sponsors, then we race at Mid-Ohio – a place that’s been pretty good for us over the years. Then, after the race, we have another appearance for Verizon and few other things happening. We have a very busy couple of weeks, but it’s a good kind of busy.

This season started out great for us at Team Penske when between Will, Ryan Briscoe and myself, we had four race wins and four poles in the first five races. Then, things got a little tough for us. But we got back on track last weekend and it’s good for everyone on the team and all of our sponsors to be fighting for the championship.

We’ve always believed and we’ve always tried to be all for one – that’s just how things work at Penske Racing. It’s a good environment and it’s going to make for a fun next few weeks as we go for it all, together.

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