Castroneves keeps it clean at Mid-Ohio

Helio Castroneves kept his hands – and his car for the most part
– to himself on Sunday at Mid-Ohio.

Two weeks after the IndyCar star erupted when officials
penalized him for blocking late in the race at Edmonton, throwing a
tantrum that ended with the Brazilian being placed on probation and
fined $60,000, Castroneves put together a quiet third-place
finish.

”Obviously, I’m on probation so I have to behave myself,”
Castroneves said with a laugh.

The race, however, wasn’t totally incident free. Castroneves and
Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe ended up sandwiching Ryan
Hunter-Reay while exiting the pits early in the race.

Castroneves felt the two cars collide and thought his race was
over. Hardly. Instead it appeared to make his No. 3 Honda
better.

”From there on, it was great,” he said.

Castroneves spent the last half of the race following winner
Dario Franchitti and teammate Will Power, the same driver he tried
to cut off in Edmonton two weeks ago. Could Castroneves have made a
run for the lead? Maybe, but he wasn’t going to push it.

”I was just being sensible, just trying to make sure that I
didn’t make anything bad, especially when (Power) has so much lead
on the championship,” Castroneves said. ”I could push, but I have
to be a little more cautious.”

MILKA MISCUES: IndyCar officials put Milka Duno on probation two
weeks ago, telling her she needs to get up to speed if she wants to
be allowed to compete in the series.

If the officials thought the message would keep Duno out of
trouble, they were wrong.

Duno started from the back of the 27-car field after being held
out of qualifying on Saturday but still found a way to mix it up.
She was nearing the final turn on the 2.258-mile circuit midway
through the race when Power and Castroneves came up behind her.
Both struggled to slip past, with Castroneves making a late turn
into the pits to avoid a mishap.

”She was hard to predict what she’s going to do,” Power said.
”Luckily I got by her.”

Yet the bobble also allowed Franchitti to slightly extend his
lead on his way to victory.

”That sort of ruined any chance I had of passing him in the
pits during the pit stop,” Power said. ”Don’t know what else to
say.”

RAHAL vs. BRISCOE: Ryan Briscoe’s budding rivalry with Graham
Rahal is on hold.

For now anyway.

The two IndyCar drivers managed to avoid each other during
Sunday’s race, their first time being on the track together since a
dustup in Toronto last month. Briscoe and Rahal were battling for
seventh midway through the race when Rahal ran into the back of
Briscoe, sending Briscoe’s No. 6 car into the wall.

It sparked a war of words, with Briscoe taking to his twitter
account to criticize Rahal. Rahal responded a few days later on a
blog. They haven’t exactly patched things up.

”I wasn’t really expecting him to apologize and he didn’t, so I
don’t care, whatever,” Briscoe said.

Rahal maintains he didn’t do anything wrong, but didn’t take it
personally when Briscoe called him a ”part-time driver.” The
21-year-old son of Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal signed a deal to
return to Newman/Haas racing last month. He doesn’t see the little
mini-squabble with Briscoe as bad for business.

”I think it’s been good recently for the IndyCar Series,”
Rahal said. ”People say the opposite but you know there’s been a
lot of attention that’s paid to the battles that we’re having with
each other. I think that’s good to see.”

Maybe, but there was no drama on Sunday, mostly because the two
drivers spent most of the race so far away from each other. Briscoe
ended up sixth while Rahal was 20th.

SARAH SPEAKS: Sarah Fisher’s to-do list is shorter than it used
to be. Her wish list, however, just keeps getting longer.

The IndyCar driver/owner spent the last six weeks trying to get
her small racing program ready to complete the season after taking
a break during a stretch of road races. Her list included a lot of
meetings, a lot of time in the garage and a lot of hoping things
will get better soon.

Fisher hired rookie Jay Howard to drive the No. 66 car for her
in Mid-Ohio. Howard finished 24th after spinning out 38 laps into
the race.

Undaunted, Fisher hopes to have both of her cars on the track
when the series visits Chicago at the end of the month.

Running two cars part-time isn’t exactly part of the plan –
she’d rather have a full-season commitment for one car – but for
now she doesn’t have much of a choice. The economy is still tight
and full-season sponsorships are hard to come by.

When one of Fisher’s cars has made it to the track, things
haven’t exactly gone as planned. Graham Rahal finished ninth in the
No. 67 in St. Petersburg, but the team hasn’t been in the Top 10
since no matter who is behind the wheel.

”It’s been tough,” she said.

Making matters worse is a problem Sarah Fisher Racing
encountered with the chassis Rahal used earlier in the season.
Dallara sent the team a new one, but there isn’t enough money to
put it together, leaving her with just three cars to finish the
year.

”There’s a brand new car sitting in our shop that just has to
sit there right now until we can figure out the budget,” she
said.

That’s life on the fringe. Fisher is encouraged by the ideas
Indycar is working on to make racing more affordable going forward,
including a less expensive, more durable car that will debut in
2012. On Saturday, Honda announced it will unveil a new engine the
same year that could cost up to 40 percent less for teams to
lease.

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