Castroneves climbs the fence at Texas for first win of season

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Helio Castroneves has taken over the outright lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship after posting a dominant performance en route to a win in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway. Castroneves asserted himself as a threat for victory toward the midway part of the race and then rolled in the second half, often stretching out his lead by considerable margins before finally taking the checkered flag by 4.7 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“[Engineer] Jonathan [Diuguid] did a hell of a job and Chevy did a great job because not only were we able to manage the tires and manage the fuel, but it was the set-up,” a joyful Castroneves said to ESPN in TMS’s fire-ringed victory lane. “We were just doing a lot of homework and it paid off. Thank God it paid off. Texas is awesome – I love this place. One more, baby!”

With his first win of 2013, Castroneves moved into the championship lead by 22 points over Marco Andretti, who led 57 laps in the early stages of the race but had to settle for fifth place at the finish.

As for Andretti’s teammate Hunter-Reay, he stayed third in the standings (27 points back) after a runner-up performance at TMS, his best in seven starts at the 1.5-mile oval.

“The drivers had to drive it tonight,” said the American pilot. “Our car was great. We made the most of it and we kind of lost it there with the yellow [on Lap 113] to come out. Our strategy was such that we needed that yellow not to come out. We had a good shot at winning it today, though.”

Third-place finisher Tony Kanaan utilized fresh tires over the final 30 laps to beat out fourth-place Ed Carpenter for the final spot on the podium. Kanaan’s third-place run caused him to jump four spots in the championship to fourth going into the next race at the Milwaukee Mile (Next Saturday, 4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network).

Dario Franchitti overcame an awful first stint to come away with a sixth-place finish. Pole sitter Will Power was seventh, followed by Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe and E.J. Viso to round out the Top 10.

The scariest part of the night came on pit road, when, according to a report from ESPN, three Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew members suffered burns to their hands and faces after an apparent explosion sprayed oil from Scott Dixon’s gearbox. An update from INDYCAR medical director Dr. Michael Olinger said that TCGR crewmen Tyler Rees, Adam Rovazzini and Greg Shuker were eventually treated and released from the infield care center after the Lap 75 incident.

Dixon had the gearbox changed on his No. 9 Target Honda after he had slowed on the backstretch at Lap 54, which brought out the yellow flag.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Firestone 550
Texas Motor Speedway

Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (6) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
2. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
3. (13) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
4. (9) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
5. (2) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 228, Running
6. (4) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 227, Running
7. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 227, Running
8. (7) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 227, Running
9. (12) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 227, Running
10. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 227, Running
11. (21) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 227, Running
12. (10) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 227, Running
13. (23) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 226, Running
14. (18) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 226, Running
15. (20) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 226, Running
16. (22) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 226, Running
17. (8) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 226, Running
18. (24) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 225, Running
19. (16) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 225, Running
20. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 224, Running
21. (17) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 223, Running
22. (14) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 223, Running
23. (11) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 61, Mechanical
24. (19) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, 2, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 177.257 mph
Time of Race: One hour, 52 minutes, 17.4594 seconds
Margin of victory: 4.6919 seconds
Cautions: Three for 27 laps
Lead changes: Four among five drivers

Lap Leaders:
Andretti 1-53
Power 54-57
Hunter-Reay 58-92
Andretti 93-96
Castroneves 97-228

Point Standings:
Castroneves 259
Andretti 237
Hunter-Reay 232
Kanaan 195
Sato 194
Pagenaud 194
Dixon 193
Wilson 184
Hinchcliffe 176
Franchitti 168