With Indy behind, it’s on to Detroit

A heavy favorite to collect his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory last weekend, Helio Castroneves had to settle for a 10th-place run in his beloved race. Although he narrowly avoided an early-race accident that eliminated his Penske Racing teammate Will Power, Castroneves guesses his No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra car never truly contended after being hit by a tire from the wrecked cars.

Nonetheless his 10th-place showing coupled with points-leader Power’s misfortune pulled him within 36 points of the championship leader as the series moves to Detroit’s picturesque Belle Isle street circuit this weekend. It is the site of Castroneves’ first career IndyCar win in 2000 and the start to a 12-year run of at least one victory each season. He defended his Detroit win in 2001 – when the race was sanctioned by Champ Car – and was runner-up in 2008, the last time the IndyCar Series raced at the course.

This week, Castroneves reviews his Indy 500 run, looks ahead to his attempt for a third win in the Motor City and the 2008 “Mirror Ball Champion” throws his hat in the ring for a possible “Dancing With the Stars’’ encore performance:

I would have changed a few things for the Indy 500 if I had it to do again. Certainly, 10th place is a solid result but it was not the result I was looking for.

I really felt we had a good car. It was stable, but it wasn’t the fastest and I don’t know why. We are still working, but I guarantee we will figure out why we didn’t have the speed. In my mind, after we had the accident when the tire bounced and hit my own right front tire, I’m assuming that possibly had a little bit of effect of the car. It was too early in the race for that to happen. But that’s Indy. You have to be in the right place at the right time.

It was a split-second decision (to avoid the tire). People don’t realize when you see a bouncing tire – it’s about 50 pounds – it probably comes at you three times the weight. If it hits you in the head, well, bad things can happen. Fortunately it was just a little hit on the right tire and I’m glad because I saw it was the right decision.

I was very surprised we weren’t more competitive. The team tried absolutely everything in the book to try to go fast. I was able to run a little with my teammate Ryan (Briscoe) – especially near the end of the race – and I definitely noticed a difference in our cars. That’s why I’m so positive because he did not have the same issues as me. He could attack and defend. I wasn’t able to attack or defend. So for me, it was very frustrating.

What I can take from this race is at least we were able to cut down some of the points (behind leader and teammate Will Power). I’m thinking the ovals are the only way to catch that guy!

I’m really excited about running in Detroit. It is where I first won a race in IndyCar and it is Roger’s (Penske) backyard. There is so much to do with racing there, it’s the Motor City. I have three wins in a lot of places that are special to me – St. Petersburg, Indianapolis and I’d like another in Detroit to complete the triple crown.

The place is challenging. I hear about drivers talking about how physical it is, but that’s why it is good, I like the challenge. The courses we run on should be challenging and Belle Isle will take a physical toll on (the drivers) as well.

It’s awesome to see how the City of Detroit has rallied behind this event. Like a lot of places, they went through some tough times over the last few years. But they survived and Detroit is on its way back, and so is the automotive industry.

We are happy to be a part of it and I know a win in the Motor City would be fantastic for my boss – Roger Penske – and everyone at Chevrolet as well.

I will be doing a lot of traveling here in the next five weeks and I’m probably going to stay another three weeks on the road. It’s going to be hectic, but I’m cool with it. It’s something I enjoy. People travel in the summer and I just travel for work.

Plus, I have a great job. After Detroit, it’s on to Texas and we keep going. Now we are really getting into the heart of the season and I can’t wait.