Indy 500 Race Day

“Thank you for giving me my life back.” And while Roger Penske may not have given Helio Castroneves his life back, he did give him his racecar back; a Team Penske mount that took the now three-time winner to Victory Lane in the 93rd Indianapolis 500; a finish that most never thought would be possible just a month ago.

The story of Castroneves’ tax problems with the federal government have been well documented, but those words in the newspapers ,and videos on ESPN of Helio coming and going from his trial this spring pale in comparison to the sound of the crowd and the emotion bursting from his face today as he climbed the main straightaway fence and kept his helmet on to hide the tears on his way to Victory Lane.

It must seem like an eternity since Castroneves was acquitted by a jury just prior to the Long Beach Grand Prix in April and jumped from the court room to his driver’s seat in barely a day.

Today he overcame early race radio communication problems with his crew and gearbox difficulties in the pits, to win perhaps a greater victory than just a 500 mile race.

This is the kind of win that Rocky Balboa and Cole Trickle would have been proud of. This was a ‘pick yourself up and get back to work’ sort of effort that may not have been accomplished by a person with a lesser outlook on life. Helio gets as excited about a bottle of milk or a pit stop contest win as he does over an on-track victory. He must cry when the paperboy hits the porch with the paper in the morning or when McDonalds gets his order right; but that’s ok, we need more joyful optimists around these days. Maybe the daily financial report or the nightly news anchor should take a lesson from this man. Maybe a little positive outlook like his could snap all of us out of the doldrums.

The tears shed by the winner were for more than a race win- they were for a return to a normal life. But this wasn’t just Helio alone. ” I think my tears speak for everything. What a great team. I just have to thank, first of all, the Lord for giving me this opportunity to be strong, to have a family that I have,” he noted. “I have to thank Roger (Penske), Tim (Cindric), my guys, Phillip Morris, all the associates (sponsors) everybody, because they gave me my life back. I’m here today because of these guys. And , obviously, the fans. You guys don’t understand. You guys kept me strong. You guys are the best. I’m honored to have fans like you. Thank you so much. Let’s celebrate now.”

And celebrate they did; not just a race win, but something so much more meaningful; life itself. Something we often take too much for granted.

Notes: It was one of those moments that makes being in the pits during pre-race time special. Mario Andretti arrived via golf cart and parked near the legendary Borg Warner trophy in front of the pagoda. While attention was focused on the former Indy 500, Daytona 500 and F1 champ, it was suggested that he pose next to the trophy to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his Indy win. At that moment, former winners Al Unser Jr., Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal and Gil de Ferran joined Mario for an ABC- TV taping that brought them all together. The six represented twelve Indy wins Former 500 Champion Eddie Cheever and his nephew, driver Richard Antinucci were strolling the pits at ORP Saturday night as the USAC midgets ran their Night Before the 500 event on the 5/8 mile oval. Antinucci finished second in the2008 Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race here Richard Petty kept his promise to John Andretti’s team and returned to Indy for today’s race. Petty, the entrant of record for the Dreyer & Reinbold – run car, plans to return to Charlotte for tonight’s Sprint Cup race Quote of the race, so far; ABC’s Marty Reed describing the Andretti/ Moraes incident on the first lap, “The National Anthem lasted longer than those two did.” The last time there was a yellow flag on the first lap was 2001 when pole sitter Scott Sharp crashed in Turn 1 Actor Josh Duhamel slapped hands with three-time 500 champion Johnny Rutherford who coached Duhamel in the techniques needed to lead the field in the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car. During his initial practice laps in the pace car, Duhamel had problems holding the accelerator down to the floor coming off of turn four, but he credited Rutherford with teaching him to trust the car as he led the field onto the main straight today Actor/singer Jim Nabors sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the 31st time today in pre-race activities. “It’s the biggest day of the year. I always look forward to it more than anything. It’s sort of a tradition for me. I never expected to be part of a tradition, but I’m thrilled I feel very blessed that the people of Indiana kind of accepted me as one of theirs. I’m very grateful.” It’s hard to remember a time in the Indy Racing League when a driver was required to allow another to pass them or risk a penalty. Ryan Briscoe complied with race officials and allowed Danica Patrick to regain 7th spot after she complained that Briscoe jumped the start and IRL officials agreed Quote of the race II; again Marty Reed on Castroneves leading late in the race: “He’s tring to jump from the clutches of the IRS to the top of the IRL.” After the race, fan-favorite Sarah Fisher, the lone owner/driver in the race,announced that she would compete in races at Texas, Kentucky, Chicago and Homestead after Indy.

Drivers aren’t always willing to take blame for an on-track incident as noted by the following comments: *Mario Moraes: “I’m really upset with what happened. I don’t know what Marco (Andretti) was doing there I don’t know if he knew,, but this was the 500 mile race.” * Marco Andretti: ” I should have been smarter than that. That kid (Moraes) is in way over his head with where he is now. I’m sitting next to him and he just drives up into me. There was no one in sight of him.” *Ryan Hunter-Reay: “A.J. Foyt IV was really loose and checked up in Turn 3 and 4. I followed him in there too closely, and that’s my fault.(surprise!) * Graham Rahal: “We all caught traffic, Milka (Duno) got in front of me, and she was absolutely clueless. She would go low like she was going to let everybody by, but then she’d go fast enough where you can’t get by her. She’d come out on the track and run you real tight.” And on and on Beside the emotional Castroneves’ win, the other popular finish was by Dan Wheldon who gave Panther Racing and their sponsor, the National Guard, a second-place finish noted around the world. “We’ve had a difficult month,” Wheldon said.” but the soldiers I’ve met here and even the stories I’ve heard from the soldiers overseas have that never-say-die attitude. And that was fully in force this month with the ace team. They (the soldiers) should be very proud

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