“Thank you God….Thank you”!
Those were the words of Helio Castroneves as he crossed the finish line to win his third Indianapolis 500. Less than six weeks ago, Castroneves sat in a Miami courtroom along with his sister, Katiuci, and his attorney, Alan R. Miller. Every night of the trial the family would gather and pray together. Three weeks ago, they sat waiting for the verdict to be read in a tax-evasion trial that threatened the future of one of the most popular Indy Car drivers in history.
If they were found guilty, each would spend the next several years wearing a jumpsuit in prison. Most outside observers felt the trial was not justified, yet, there they were, minutes away from an announcement that would change each life forever.
What a difference the words “Not Guilty” can make.
Late Sunday afternoon—Helio is not sitting in prison, rather, he is posing on the side of his racecar, holding the champions trophy, wearing a smile that will not go away for a very long time. As a matter of record, Helio’s smile seldom leaves his face.
In one of the most anticipated and evenly matched races in history, it was Castroneves who held the lead when it counted. The margin of victory over 2005 Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon was 1.98 seconds. Danica Patrick, in perhaps her last Indy 500 (with NASCAR calling), finished a strong third. Patrick was able to quiet those who doubted her talent and determination as she ran a very calculated and patient race giving her the highest finish ever by a female on the famed 2 ½ mile oval.
When asked if she would have been able to catch Castroneves near the end, Patrick asked what Helios lap speeds were the final laps. When told he was running over 220, Patrick laughed and said, “Uh…..no!”
Townsend Bell, not on any “experts” radar despite a 10th place finish here last year, finished 4th. He was followed by second year driver Will Power. 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon finished 6th and 2007 winner Dario Franchitti finished 7th. Ed Carpenter, Paul Tracy and Hideki Mutoh rounded out the top ten.
Dixon led the most laps of the day with 73 while Castroneves led 66 laps. There were only 2 other leaders. Franchitti led 45 laps and Ryan Brisco led 11 laps.
The race was not without several accidents. Eight separate incidents took ten cars out of the field.
Marco Andretti and Mario Moraes made contact on the first lap when Moraes drifted high as Andretti was attempting an ill-advised pass on the high side. It seems that drivers can never be reminded enough that this is a 500 mile race and not a 20 lap shootout.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, Davey Hamilton, Tony Kanaan, Nelson Phillippe and Justin Wilson each had single car crashes.
Kanaan was one of the favorites entering the race. He was the only driver in the field who has led every Indianapolis 500 he has entered. That ended this year, his 8th, as Kanaan stated, “Something broke”, on lap 98 and he hit the wall while running in 2nd place.