- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves called IndyCar race director Brian Barnhart a “circus clown” during a Twitter rant last week and that cost him $30,000 on Tuesday.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner was fined and put on probation after complaining about a penalty imposed on the final lap at Japan, making him the first driver in series history to be disciplined for comments posted on Twitter.

And it was there on the social network that he responded to Tuesday’s fine.

“At this point, I think it’s best to just put this situation behind me and move forward,” he wrote. “We have a big race this weekend and my focus now is getting back on track and behind the wheel of the No. 3 Team Penske car as we try to defend our win from last season at Kentucky Speedway.”

In Japan, Barnhart dropped Castroneves from seventh to 22nd place after he made a pass under yellow. The driver acknowledged his maneuver was illegal but said he should’ve received a one-spot penalty.

When Castroneves learned of the penalty, the television broadcast had already ended, so he used Twitter to voice his opinion.

“Making the famous (at)paultracy’s words mine: Brian Barnhart is a circus clown!” Castroneves wrote in a series of posts. “Very disappointed for finishing 7th and being put to 22nd. This is just ABSURD !!!”

He also called Barnhart inconsistent because he penalizes some drivers and not others, changes the rule book when its convenient and blamed Barnhart for “bringing down an entire series.”

Castroneves can pay off the fine without digging into his wallet, working it off through public appearances for the series. He also can appeal.

The gregarious Brazilian is one of IndyCar’s most familiar faces, but it’s been a bleak season.

He has won at least one race each year since 2001 but still has not won in 2011. He’s led only 34 laps and has blamed his misfortunes on bad luck and poor judgment.

Off the track, things haven’t gone much better.

The man who once beat the IRS in court could face a legal rematch after government officials filed a civil claim in U.S. Tax Court in May. They contend he owes more than $6 million in taxes and penalties.

Castroneves will get two more chances at a victory this season _ Sunday at Kentucky and Oct. 16 at Las Vegas. And that’s what he intends to do.

“It’s important for us to end the season on a positive note,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “So we will be doing our best to get back to Victory Lane this weekend and at the finale in Las Vegas.”