NEWTON, Iowa – Helio Castroneves pretty much made up the points he lost last week at Milwaukee and the main event hasn’t even started yet.
Castroneves won the Verizon P1 Award at Iowa Speedway on Saturday but in a most unusual way. Not only was Castroneves the fastest in Saturday afternoon’s single-lap qualifications but he backed that up by winning the third and decisive Heat Race at the 0.875-mile short oval Saturday night.
It was Castroneves’ 38th career pole.
Now, the bad news for Castroneves.
Team Penske decided to change engines in his car, which means he will incur a 10-grid-spot penalty and will start 11th. He still gets the credit and the points for the pole, however.
Castroneves’ Dallara/Chevrolet drove away from teammate Will Power in the late stages of the third Heat Race, which featured the six fastest drivers from Saturday’s single-lap qualifying and the two highest finishers in each of the first two 50-lap Heat Races.
Those two drivers were Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato from race No. 1 and winner Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter from race No. 2. Rahal put on quite a show in the second race driving from the rear of the field to the lead before teammate James Jakes brought out the only caution flag of the three races with three laps remaining.
The three Heat Races set the field for Sunday’s Iowa Corn Indy 250. The ABC telecast begins at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Last week at The Milwaukee Mile, Castroneves finished second but with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning the race his points lead shrank to 16 points. With the victory in the Heat Race on Saturday evening Castroneves enters Sunday’s 250-lap contest by 25 points over Hunter-Reay, who is the defending winner of this event.
“Nine points right now is really welcomed to be honest,” Castroneves said. “I’m really excited what we achieved. We watched the first two Heats so we could learn something. In the end it was the right decision that we made so we are making the right choices on the changes to the car.”
Castroneves was in a hurry to get back to give his opinion on the change to his race car for Sunday’s race.
“You guys will fine out very soon,” Castroneves said. “I’m going to try to get my opinion heard (with the team engineers).”
That was before Team Penske decided to change engines in Castroneves’ car.
Power’s second-place finish gave Chevrolet and Team Penske a sweep of the top two starting positions. But instead, Power will be the driver that leads the field to the green flag on Sunday.