Castroneves recovers to second; calls contact with Dracone ‘misunderstanding’


A rained out qualifying session allowed Helio Castroneves to start the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana from fourth place based on points.

The Team Penske driver then survived a rain-soaked track and early damage to his car to finish second to James Hinchcliffe.

“Track conditions (were) really difficult because in some of the areas there were streams going into the race track and it was very difficult for us to keep on (track) out there,” Castroneves told NBCSN afterward.

Only 21 of the 47 laps recorded in the race were actually run under green, as six cautions interrupted the race from Lap 16 to Lap 47 and forced the originally scheduled 75-lap race to end after 105 minutes.

Castroneves’ race was affected on Lap 21, when a caution flew after Jack Hawksworth made contact in Turn 13 after James Jakes spun. On that lap, Castroneves made contact with rookie Francesco Dracone, damaging the former’s front wing.

“We had a bit of a misunderstanding,” Castroneves said. “I thought the guy I hit was two laps down and I knew he wasn’t battling for the lead, and unfortunately I ended up getting our nose chopped on. The information was a little bit iffy.”

But Castroneves battled back for his first podium finish of the year and his first in six races. His last was in Toronto race one in 2014, when he also finished second.

The Brazilian was the highest-placing Penske driver with polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya finishing fifth and Will Power coming home seventh.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner applauded the inaugural running of the race in New Orleans, despite the weather conditions and the short race.

“I have to (congratulate) the entire track and the entire Verizon IndyCar Series for pushing to have a round here,” Castroneves said. “And the fans actually, thank you for the fans (at the race). We have to keep going.”