Castroneves ready to make late surge for elusive first IndyCar championship

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Helio Castroneves has been down this road so many times.

In fact, 16 years and 244 races since his first year in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2001, as well as four years and 70 races in the now defunct Champ Car World Series.

And yet, no matter how hard he has tried, the popular Brazilian driver has failed to fulfill his lifelong dream of winning an IndyCar championship.

Sure, he’s won the Indianapolis 500 three times in 16 starts. But he has no season championship trophies to go along with those 500 trophies on his mantle.

Oh, he’s come close – several times, in fact: four runner-up finishes and three third-place season showings, including last season.

Now, with four races remaining this season, Castroneves is once again facing a familiar scenario: a chance at finally taking that championship in the stretch run – but it won’t be easy.

With four races left in the season, including Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, Castroneves is only looking forward, not backward.

Forward as in trying to catch Penske Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud, who leads the series with 484 points. Fellow teammate Will Power is second (426 points), while Castroneves is still in the mix in third place, albeit at a 111-point deficit to Pagenaud.

It hasn’t helped Castroneves’ cause that in the last five races, while he’s earned a runner-up at Toronto and a fifth-place finish at Road America, he’s also finished 14th at Belle Isle 2, 13th at Iowa and a season-worst 15th in the most recent race, at Mid-Ohio.

As for his record at Pocono, in his first two starts on the 2.5-mile tri-oval in 2013 and 2014, Castroneves finished eighth and second, respectively.

But it was a different story in 2015. He started from the pole and was in good position to potentially take the win until he was involved in a crash with 34 laps remaining.

As a result, Castroneves finished 16th in that race, a finish he intends on bouncing back from in Sunday’s race.

“The Hitachi Chevy team really needs a good result at Pocono,” Castroneves said. “Other than last year, we’ve had good finishes there.

“The car has always been strong and I don’t expect anything different this year. It’s important that we keep pace with the guys in front of us and pick up some ground if we can.

“The season is in the homestretch. I really enjoy the racing at Pocono and happy to hear that we’ll be going back next season (and 2018). It’s a very competitive track that produces great racing.”

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