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

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”