“It would be shocking as well because it would be unexpected,” Castroneves said. “We had a winning car, I don’t think we had the fastest car to be honest. I think we had a consistent car. While people were doing 215s (mph), we were doing 214s (mph). And when people were doing 205 (mph), we were doing 207 (mph). We kept a little more consistent. And it would have been a disappointment. Mistakes happen, and we shouldn’t judge that because of a simple mistake.
“I think there was two things here. I think there was a lot of passing. Unfortunately editing on the race probably did not catch that. I watched the race afterwards, and there was a lot of passing, and some of there is that it probably didn’t get picked up. With that, it is very difficult. You have to drive the car. It wasn’t the typical race that we try and avoid, which is flat out. I feel that the cars that had a better setup went better. That cars that was thinking about the speed did not go so good. In my view, it was very difficult because you have to think a lot, you have to plan a lot in passing something. And, trying something that you normally don’t do; different lanes; running high; running low. I thought as a driver it was a big challenge. For me, that is why what we did — winning the race — it’s a big reward because my experience I think it paid off in that race. I wish we have something like. Sometimes if people didn’t see a lot of passing, it wasn’t because of that. It was because, unfortunately, producers miss a lot of action in the back pack.”
IndyCar officials and many of the teams wanted Firestone to develop a tire that would wear out over the course of a fuel run which would put the racing more into the driver’s control in an attempt to break up “Pack Racing.”
“Firestone is always trying to make a better tire; trying to make a safe tire first of all, and a good performance,” said the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “The combination with the low downforce and the tires, to be honest, it was actually in a good way. Last year the rears (tires) were going off pretty bad, and that was becoming very tough. We didn’t have a crash actually in the last race at Texas. We had a spin, but I don’t think it was a crash. So that shows that at least what Firestone designed the tires to do, it was the fronts coming off a little bit. So which warned the driver that you have to change your style to drive, or you have to change your setup, or something like that. I have to say Firestone did a great job.”
The rules of the game will change this weekend at The Milwaukee Mile because it’s IndyCar’s first short oval race of the season. This is a true test of driving skill because it requires everything a driver can do to get through traffic on a flat, one-mile oval that opened for racing in 1903.
“It is interesting this place because you carry a lot of downforce,” Castroneves said. “Inside the car, it looks like you are going over 200 miles an hour, but we’re not. Actually we are going about 180 to 190. It shows you have to drive the car here as well. Plus, because we don’t have banking, you know your car change quite a lot. When the tires start going away after about 20-25 laps, you still have 30 more to go, and it is still very tough because of the turbulence here. Because of the lines people are running are the same as yours. It’s like a road course in ovals, and that is why it is so much fun. The secret? I won’t tell you because then it won’t be secret anymore.
“This place here, for me, I got my first pole position ever, but it did not give me a win yet. So, it will be very good, and very fast. Hopefully it will be this weekend that we can get the number one spot. We are going to continue doing what we do, because certainly we know that what we are doing we are right. It is just circumstances out of our control that happens. Hopefully this year it will be a different way.”
Team Penske was winless until last Saturday’s race at Texas and Castroneves became the seventh different winner in the first eight races this season. That includes three first-time winners. James Hinchcliffe is the only driver who has won twice this year and Target/Chip Ganassi Racing has yet to score a victory with Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon or Charlie Kimball.
“You have got to say we’ve been competitive,” Castroneves said. “I made a mistake in the first race of the season. It’s circumstances. All the teams are improving. You have to say it is not about Team Penske or Team Ganassi; other teams step up their game. The rules not allow you to change much, so basically there is only so much you can do. A big credit for the small teams. It shows that the series is very, very competitive. It gives an opportunity for a guy — rookie — to win races. That is why our series is one of the best.”