Helio Castroneves started Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach driving his Team Penske Chevrolet as if he stole it. The police weren’t chasing him, but every other driver in the 21-car field certainly was.
He started from the pole and set a blistering pace, leading 36 of the first 40 laps in the 80-lap event. All told, he led a race high 47 laps.
But a slight miscue in strategy took Castroneves out of the lead and eventually saw teammate Simon Pagenaud take the point and motor on to victory.
Meanwhile, Castroneves finished a still strong third. While the race was physically brutal for several other drivers, Castroneves was bright and chippy afterwards – except for not getting the win.
“It was actually fine,” he said of the conditions. “As long as we kept the rhythm, and it was one rhythm.
“The AAA car was really good in the beginning. We were leading a lot of laps. But in the end, a little bit of strategy there, we got traffic, we decided to come in and the guy came in at the same time and that basically killed us and we ended up losing two spots at once.
“At the end of the day, congrats to Simon, his first win at Team Penske. At least I’m glad one of us at Team Penske wound up getting this victory.”
In fact, all four Team Penske cars finished in the top-10.
“For Simon, it was a great day for him,” team owner Roger Penske said. “As we tell the guys, one car can only win. For him to hold off Dixon in the last 25 laps shows how good he is and is great for his team. Now we’re tied with Ganassi, 6-6 (for total wins at Long Beach). Now we’re even.”