- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Helio Castroneves took a deep breath and tried to describe his season.

No, it hasn’t been a good one, and it hasn’t been much fun.

Instead of celebrating by scaling walls, the usually jovial Brazilian has gotten a crash course _ literally _ in how fast fortunes change in IndyCar racing.

“It’s bad judgment, it’s racing incidents, those situations make for bad results,” Castroneves said this week at his favorite track, Indianapolis. “I’ve had things like this happen before, early in my career and in my first season with Team Penske.”

Back then, Castroneves was not a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner or the first foreign-born three-time winner of the race. If he qualifies on the 33-car starting grid this weekend, Castroneves will get a second chance to join the exclusive four-time winners club. The group includes only three names: A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser.

Nor had he become an American celebrity thanks to his fancy footwork on “Dancing With The Stars.”

But now, in the prime of his career, Castroneves, one of IndyCar’s best drivers, can’t seem to do anything right.

It started on the first lap of the season-opener at St. Petersburg. Castroneves got caught in a melee that took him, teammate Ryan Briscoe and Marco Andretti out of contention.

Two races later, at Long Beach, Castroneves plowed into the side of teammate Will Power on a restart _ a cardinal sin on Team Penske.

“I was devastated because that goes against my principles,” Castroneves said. “Afterward, I sat down with Will and apologized to him. It was just bad judgment.”

But the tribulations still weren’t over.

When he met last month with Brian Barnhart, IndyCar president of competition and racing operations, Castroneves said they only “touched” on the subject of his miscues.

Two weeks ago, Castrovenes was in Brazil and desperate to win before the home crowd. A first-lap crash on a rain-covered track knocked him out of contention.

And now the IRS battle may not be over, either. The IRS this month filed a civil claim in U.S. Tax Court saying Castroneves owed more than $6 million in taxes and penalties.

Castroneves finished 20th, 7th, 12th and 21st in the first four races, leaving him 100 points behind Power in the standings. He’s 17th overall, one spot behind rookie JR Hildebrand.

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