Rough Weekend For Castroneves At Milwaukee Mile

Milwaukee Mile – May 31, 2009 – As Johnny Rutherford was wont to say, “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.” And in the past weeks, Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves has been on both sides of that meal.

Recovering from all of his federal tax problems to win the 500, including capturing the pole starting spot as well as the pre-race pit stop contest, Castroneves’ May run was the feel-good story in racing thus far this year. So, as Team Penske headed north on I-65 to the Milwaukee Mile, they probably had visions of continuing their successful month at the demanding West Allis mile. But that bear had other ideas.

First there was an incident in qualifying Saturday that relegated him to 20th starting spot. Then, a balky transmission slowed his race, finally finishing three laps down to winner Scott Dixon.

“The car snapped a little bit. I thought I saved it, but then it just slid and brushed the wall, but unfortunately that was the end of qualifying,” said a dejected Castroneves who thought he would have started about sixth if he had stayed out of trouble. “It’s a shame. This place is always very tough. At least we proved we had a good car. So we’re going to try hopefully to have good pit stops and score points, because now we have a great chance in the championship and we can’t just give it away, so hopefully we’re going to have a good day tomorrow.”

But race day was no kinder to the ever optimistic Brazilian as uncharacteristic mechanical ills made his starting spot seem even farther away from the front.

“Today was one of the days that when you ask about how many laps (remain) and it seems to be like 700 to go. This is the same engine from Indianapolis. We had exactly the same problem-the gearbox. But this time the engine stopped, actually it stalled ..It was stuck in first gear. I tried to turn the emergency switch on. Nothing. Finally I turned off the car and here we go again,” Castroneves remembered as he recounted a less than memorable race.

“Back in last position I believe. I tried to race my own race at that point. Towards the end, we tried to take a chance to not pit, to get our lap back and hope for another yellow. But, unfortunately it didn’t.”

And his view on the virtues of success vs. failure? “You got to take it as it comes. You can’t just be frustrated over that. As I said, the team is doing great. You can’t let these bad results influence the rest of the team. ”

So, today the bear was the winner. But another meal is being prepared at Texas in less than a week, and Helio already has his napkin tucked in and his fork in his hand. He can’t wait. And he’s still managing a smile.


? Thirteen teams that competed in the recent Indianapolis 500 failed to enter the ABC Supply/ AJ Foyt 225 at the Milwaukee Mile. Many teams that were just “one -off ” entrants at Indy including top-ten finishers Townsend Bell and Will Power, and big names AJ Foyt IV, Sarah Fisher, Scott Sharp and Oriol Servia, skipped the Legendary Mile- thirteen cars in all- plus Stanton Barrett who crashed in practice and later withdrew. This left Milwaukee with a 20-car grid. It’s a good thing that several former Champ Car teams came over to the IRL in 2008, or the 2009 entry lists would be even smaller.

? According to track officials, Wisconsin Motorsports, LLC is currently in negotiations with the IRL to sign a multi-year contract extension to promote Indy car racing at the Milwaukee Mile on the first weekend after the Indianapolis 500. This despite the fact that the Texas Motor Speedway has made it known that they would like to be the next IRL event directly following the 500.

? This is the sixth Indy Car Series event at the Milwaukee Mile, with three former winners: Ryan Briscoe (2008), Tony Kanaan (2006-07), and Dario Franchitti (2004) competing.

? Stanton Barrett’s Team 3G chose not to repair their car that was damaged in an incident during Saturday’s first practice session. The team returned to Indianapolis to repair the car and get it ready to compete in the June 6th night race at Texas Motor Speedway. They were listed as finishing 21st in the race box score.

? Twelfth-place Indy finisher Tomas Scheckter, who drove for Dale Coyne Racing in the 500, switched to Dreyer & Reinbold’s Charter Communications #23 for the Milwaukee race, starting 10th and finishing 13th in the 225 mile grind.

? Does winning the Indianapolis 500 mean bad luck at Milwaukee? Only ten times has the 500 winner gone on to win the next week at Milwaukee. Juan Pablo Montoya was the last winner to do it in 2000 driving for Target-Ganassi, while the 2009 500 victor, Helio Castroneves started last after crashing his Team Penske mount in qualifying. He went on to finish 11th today.

? Today’s crowd at the Mile was described by track officials as being larger than in 2008. Reflecting the current economy, the bleacher seats were almost totally sold out, while the higher -priced main grandstand was less than full. We remember Governor Tommy Thompson telling us several years ago that the old Mile grandstand had to go because you couldn’t see the entire track from a large portion of the seats. Today, with excellent sight lines in the modern stand, cost plays a large role in where fans choose to sit. The crowd for today’s race was all the more remarkable considering that the first-place Milwaukee Brewers were playing before 44,594 fans at near-by Miller Park.

? Green Bay Packers’ place-kicker Mason Crosby sent three autographed NFL footballs into various sections of the main grandstand as part of the pre-race festivities. Packers’ punter Jeremy Kapinos served as his holder, using a water bottle cap as a tee.

? Tony Kanaan’s 19th- place finish was the first time he has finished out of the top four in six Milwaukee races.

? Danica Patrick finished fifth, her fourth consecutive top-five finish. She is the only series driver with four top-five finishes this season. She is fourth in the points race, 22 points behind leader Scott Dixon.

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