By Mike Kitchel
(DETROIT, MI) – Helio Castroneves was living in the moment while revisiting the past and looking to the future while being doused with champagne on the victory podium June 1 at Belle Isle in Detroit.
Castroneves had claimed his first victory since June 2013 at Texas Motor Speedway at the racetrack where he earned his maiden Indy car win in June 2000, and was eyeing the next race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
“I’m already thinking about Texas,” said Castroneves, referring to the Firestone 600 under the lights June 7 on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval. “We are on it. We’re not playing around.”
Castroneves is brimming with confidence – and championship points – following three consecutive top-five finishes, including the 1.6836-second victory over Team Penske teammate Will Power in the 70-lap Dual 2 of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans on June 1.
He was runner-up in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 25 – missing out on a record-tying fourth victory by .0600 of a second – and recorded a fifth-place finish in Dual 1 on the 2.36-mile, 13-turn Belle Isle circuit after starting from the pole May 31. The 205 points haul – the most by any driver in Rounds 5-7 – has vaulted Castroneves to 19 points behind the front-running Power in the championship standings.
“I’m very confident with my team,” said Castroneves, whose 29th career win tied Team Penske consultant and four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears for 11th on the all-time list. “The Hitachi car, we know what we got, especially after Indy. Ovals, we improved quite a lot. We are definitely ready.
“I am able to pay attention to details that I haven’t seen before, able to work with engineers better than before.”
Power, who has a pair of runner-up finishes to complement his two victories this season, said Castroneves’ drive has been unwavering since they became teammates in 2009, which has been a valuable lesson in Power’s pursuits of his first championship.
“He’s just very strong. The guy has passion for winning and motorsport itself, which this sport is very tough on you,” said Power, who scored a .3308-of-a-second win over Graham Rahal in Dual 1 on May 31. “A guy like him that hasn’t won a championship, he’s been so close. He’ll be a contender this year. To me, he’s better than when I first turned up on the scene.”
At Texas last year, Castroneves led a field-high 132 of the 228 laps and went on to win by 4.69 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay. Power, who started from the pole, finished seventh.
“My teammate absolutely destroyed the field last year,” Power said. “No excuses on the car front. That is just confidence on ovals. We just have to turn up there, see what we got, and try to have a good weekend.”