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Detroit races represent a missed opportunity for Castroneves

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For Helio Castroneves, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear represented a missed opportunity of sorts for a driver whose last win came at this very event in 2014 (he won Race 2 of that year’s double header).

The weekend began ominously as Castroneves briefly grabbed the pole for Race 1 before a penalty was levied against him after he failed to slow properly for a yellow flag, precipitated by a quick spin from Mikhail Aleshin.

As a result, Castroneves lost his fastest lap. While his second fastest lap was still good enough for second on the grid, behind polesitter Graham Rahal, it was a sign of things to come.

Castroneves’ three-stop strategy in Race 1 showed potential, as he was every bit as fast as Rahal throughout the day. However, a lap 26 caution for a stalled Conor Daly and spinning Charlie Kimball proved beneficial for Rahal, who ran a two-stop strategy and had just completed his first pit stop, and a handicap for Castroneves.

Though he leapfrogged Rahal and held the lead at the time, Castroneves always had an extra pit stop to make, and the caution allowed Rahal to save fuel and erase the gap between the two. Consequently, despite his pace, Castroneves could do no better than seventh at race’s end as no additional cautions flew to tilt the scales back in his favor.

“The cautions didn’t work out for us,” he lamented after Saturday’s race. “I didn’t save an ounce of fuel. The Hitachi Chevy was super fast. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t get to the front. It’s pretty difficult to pass, so you need a few things to go your way and they didn’t.”

Things didn’t get much better in Race 2 on Sunday. Castroneves started fourth and was battling with Ryan Hunter-Reay when his left-rear tire clipped the right-front wing of Hunter-Reay. The contact immediately cut Castroneves’ tire and he limped back around to the pits.

Even though his finishing position of ninth represented a resounding comeback, all the more impressive given that the race’s first caution did not come out until lap 66 (James Hinchcliffe came to a stop exiting turn two after a mechanical problem), it still could have been more, as Castroneves again demonstrated the pace to battle for a win.

Still, driver of the No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet remained upbeat, despite the disappointing results. “The Hitachi Chevy was great again (on Sunday),” Castroneves asserted afterward. “We had a little bit of bad luck there with Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and getting a tire cut down. It was early enough that I thought we might be able to overcome it, but we didn’t get a caution until the very end. I wish we could have done better with our finish, but our car was strong.”

Even though he does not have a win to his name in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Castroneves remains in a strong championship position. He currently trails championship leader Scott Dixon by only eight points as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next week for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 (Saturday June 10 at 8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.