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Castroneves Dedicates Indy Win To His Fans

Indianapolis, Ind. – Rain drenched the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday, but the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who returned to the track to begin fulfilling the nonstop media obligations and appearances that go along with winning the famed race. The popular Brazilian driver’s emotions were more under control today than they were minutes after taking the checkered flag Sunday afternoon.

“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “Winning the 500 is a little like a movie going through my mind, and I want to dedicate my victory to the many fans who supported me during my troubled times. The fans, along with my team, kept me alive and strong throughout.”

When Castroneves wins a race, he toasts the fans by climbing fences near the finish line, but it nearly didn’t happen Sunday. Upon stopping his car on the track, race officials attempted to dispatch him directly to victory circle, but it didn’t work. “It is my signature salute,” he stated and he wasn’t to be denied. Castroneves proceeded to bound from his parked car and joined his crew in a celebratory romp on the fence. Thereafter, he was pushed to the winner’s podium for the traditional drink of milk and other toasts.

Castroneves admitted his legal problems took their toll, but he also believes he is a changed man because of it. “The scars will never disappear. I will never forget the trial, but I have to move on from it.” Admittedly, racing serves as his escape from his troubles. “When I put on my helmet, I am into my world, which is my shield from the legal ordeal. Racing is what I love to do, and I have been putting on a helmet since I was 12 years old.”

Athletes like Jennifer Capriati, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong have bounced back from adverse situations, and Castroneves says their comebacks have given him inspiration. “They have had rough moments in their lives, but they came back stronger than ever,” he said. Capriati is one of the many that have sent motivational messages to him.

During the photo shoot, the popular driver got an up-close look at the names on the Borg-Warner trophy, taking particular notice of those with multiple wins. “I saw the names on the trophy, and it is incredible to be a part of it. I am so grateful to be sharing my victory with these champions.”

Many believe he has the talent and the team that could propel him to more wins, and while he hopes their beliefs will bear fruit, his near-term focus is on the IndyCar Series championship and next weekend’s race at The Milwaukee Mile. “I got my first podium finish in Milwaukee, and I got my best finish (fifth) there a year ago,” he stated. “Even though we aren’t going 220 miles per hour, it feels that way to me. It is a great place to race, and I am ready to go now.”

Castroneves heaped praise on Team Penske, its principals and teammates Ryan Briscoe and Will Power. “Ryan (Briscoe) and Will (Power) set up the cars and should get the credit for my performance. We share information and have an open book among us. Also, I have Rick Mears to rely upon.”

As far as moving over for the younger generation of drivers, Castroneves doesn’t see that happening for a while. “Experience plays a big role at places like Indianapolis, and as long as you keep fit, I think I can race for a long time to come,” he said. “I am very determined, and if you have the fire inside and are with a competitive team, you can go on for a long time.” He used Mark Martin as an example of a driver who continues to have the winning attitude. Martin along with NASCAR champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are among the many that have recently sent him congratulatory messages.

Castroneves believes that everything happens in life for a reason, and that his win in the 93rd Indianapolis 500 is just another example of how bad situations can be turned into good ones when the opportunity presents itself. Even though it was seven years between wins for the accomplished driver, he never lost faith. “I knew hard work would payoff,” he said. “If you give yourself an opportunity, the door will open.”

For Castroneves, the door has opened and the champion is back in business, looking for another fence to climb.

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