Detroit race two back in 2014 was the last time Helio Castroneves won an IndyCar race and in 2017 it seemed to be when, not if he would end that drought.
Castroneves had already been on pole three times in 2017 but had yet to achieve a victory thanks to those front row starting positions slipping away for various reasons. A bad start in Long Beach, inferior strategy at the Indy Grand Prix and a Dixon masterclass in Road America, all contributed to the much loved Brazilian’s winless year. But finally at Iowa he took his first victory in over three years thanks to great Penske teamwork and incredible pace from Castroneves.
Will Power had started on pole but always had Castroneves shadowing him along with J.R Hildebrand. These three were the main contenders for the win throughout the whole race, the lead swapping over multiple times throughout the course of the Iowa Corn 300. Hildebrand lead after the early stages as the Penske cars dropped back slightly. But amazing pitwork during the first caution period saw Castroneves beat them all in the race off pitlane and emerge in the lead as the race resumed. The Brazilian was in control and lead 2/3’s of the race and set the fastest lap and looked incredibly determined to take that elusive win. Fierce action raged behind him as Hildebrand fought with Power to get back up to the front, and Ryan Hunter-Reay was on a charge towards the front after qualifying 15th. Graham Rahal was also in the mix having had a disappointing Road America and seeking a big points haul.
“Finally, everything came together, and 30 wins, we just passed Rick Mears, which is my hero. … I’m honored to be part of this organization.”
Championship leader Scott Dixon was having a tough day was only just able to get into the top ten as Castroneves romped away at the front. A red flag for light rain did nearly aid Dixon as it changed the face of the race. Several drivers pitted before the race was stopped for new tyres, including Dixon and Josef Newgarden. Newgarden moved up the field quickly to P6 but Dixon couldn’t do the same. The aid for him though came in the shape of Hildebrand. He pitted for his final stop before Castroneves and emerged infront of the Brazilian. However, traffic held him up massively as the raced entered its closing stages and Castroneves swept by Hildebrand and drove off into the distance and ultimately won the race by over three seconds. Hildebrand took a great second place and held off the charge of Hunter-Reay who had put on a great display.
The win from Castroneves has put him just eight points behind Dixon in the championship standings. A lot is still to play for as the season slowly reaches its climax, but the title race is still very much open and it is anyone’s guess who will take the crown this year. But after so many years of trying, Helio Castroneves may just be able to finally win the IndyCar championship…