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

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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.”

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

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Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.