Helio Castroneves nearly pulled off a last-to-first drive at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday to pull off his third podium finish in the last four Verizon IndyCar Series races.
Ending second after starting 24th and last came as a bit of a surprise though, to say the least. He started from the rear after his team missed his spot in the qualifying line.
Castroneves made some headway in the opening stint, up to 17th by his first pit stop on Lap 48. His Team Penske crew gained him five spots after the sequence and he was quickly up to 12th behind teammate Will Power.
Still, Castroneves in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was stuck in the mid-teens for the middle stint of the race, and didn’t even crack the top 10 for the first time until Lap 191 of the 250-lap race. He was 10th, a lap down, in the midst of a pit cycle.
Castroneves vaulted to the top of the lapped cars as Sebastien Bourdais put the field a lap down and once the Frenchman pitted, and everyone got back on the same lap, Castroneves found himself in good position. He pitted for new tires late and got up to second, equaling his best finish at the track (1998, 2013).
Castroneves recapped the roller coaster afternoon.
“It was very frustrating unfortunately. It was a miscue on that situation,” he said of qualifying. “We were 10 minutes late on showing up to the line for the field.
“Certainly I think the weekend at Fontana somebody else had the same issue. Those are the rules that are really reinforced. Very disappointed because we know how tough it is over here to pass.
“But the point is, we never give up,” he added. “Honestly many times I didn’t know the position I was. They didn’t tell me. I was trying to drive as hard as I can. We knew we had plenty of tires because of not qualifying. It gave us an extra set. That could be an advantage for us. We knew putting new tires would be better.
“I didn’t know what position I was until lap 220. 218 was the yellow. I glanced in the pagoda, I saw my name up there. Oh, I am doing well!
“At one point in the race I was by myself. Actually, there was one car. I didn’t know where was everybody. I look in the mirror. Nobody front, nobody. What happened? I must be doing really bad or really good.
“When the yellow came, I thought, Now we got a chance to win because now we got good tires.
“The 11 [Bourdais] was just too quick.”
Castroneves’ thus far winless but consistent season – he has five podium finishes this year, tied for the most with Graham Rahal – has him tied for third in the points heading to Iowa next weekend. Coincidentally, he’s tied with Rahal on points, as well.