Castroneves looks forward to Iowa
As the IZOD IndyCar Series wraps up five consecutive weeks of racing, mostly on ovals, Castroneves remains confident in his chances to contend for the 2012 championship. A winner in the season-opener at St. Petersburg, he is fifth in the standings - 43 points behind championship leader and Team Penske teammate Will Power - with six top-10 finishes in eight races. As the series heads to the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway this weekend, Castroneves discusses this stretch in the schedule, Father’s Day, Iowa Speedway's heat races, his championship outlook and his “selfish” pick for a venue to replace the recently-canceled race in China.
It’s been a crazy few weeks for everyone, the entire series. The toughest part is when you’re travelling so much and testing in between the races, you don’t have time to fully evaluate what happened in every one of the races. We don’t have the meetings we normally do to sit down and look at the details. And details make a big difference. Even for a big team like Team Penske, we’re trying to evaluate everything but it’s so difficult when you combine testing and are so busy converting the cars from road courses to ovals and things like that.
This is the first week in a long time when I have had two days off. On Wednesday I travel to Iowa. The guys in the shop have no days off – they are converting the cars from Milwaukee to Iowa. Those boys have a busy, busy schedule right now.
It’s been very interesting since Indy. I was very upset about our result in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix because we had a car that could have finished in the top five. Unfortunately, the track had some issues and we had to stop racing for a couple hours as they made repairs. And when we came back, unfortunately I got caught in one of the areas they fixed and ended up getting in a little trouble and we finished 17th when we should have been top-five.
We rebounded a bit in Texas. I enjoyed the difficulty level we had in driving the car over 200 mph. It was very slippery because of the downforce they took from the car and we had a good result, going from 17th to seventh.
At Milwaukee, I had such high hopes because we had a great prerace test there and I felt really strong. We started sixth and were leading the race at one point with a different pit strategy. Unfortunately, those double-file restarts ended up getting us. The problem with the double-file restart is it always helps one side or the other. The outside lane was a little better and because of backmarkers I ended up starting those restarts on the inside lane twice. So we ended up sixth and that was a little bit frustrating because I knew I had a better car than that.
After the race I spent Father’s Day with my little girl, Mikaella and longtime girlfriend Adriana and I’m very lucky for that. We ate paella and a bunch of kids were there. We were with family and it was really nice to spend a Sunday like that.
I spent this week in Florida before travelling to Iowa. I’m in the middle of a renovation to my house there in Fort Lauderdale. It’s actually therapy to take my mind off things a bit. At least it lets me focus on something other than racing for a while so when I come back, I come back 100 percent.
I am looking forward to Iowa this weekend. The heat races that will determine the starting grid will be interesting. I understand the field for the heat races will be set according to our practice speeds. So we will just try to wait for a draft and get a fast time and everyone will do the same thing. I think qualifying times should set up the heat races. But again, I like what they are doing, because they are trying something different. They are trying to make it more interesting for everybody.
IndyCar President of Competition Beaux Barfield is doing a very good job in listening to the drivers. And the series is doing a good job in being open to new things, new formats, like the new qualifying for Iowa and the idea to change downforce in Texas so we don’t have pack racing. They are listening to us.
As for the championship, I wish we had a few more points, to be honest. I’d like to cut down the distance between myself and my Team Penske teammate. We are in good shape and we are not desperate. The way the races are going it seems that even if you start way behind you can take some chances with strategy and have an opportunity. I think we have a real chance to go for the championship.
And if we replace the race that was to be in China, I would go to Homestead-Miami Speedway. I think it would be exciting, especially with it being on an oval and it’s close to home for me. Hey, if I’m not going to China, I prefer not to go anywhere but home!
Editor's Note: Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion and Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves will be contributing columns for FOXSports.com during the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.