SAO PAULO (AP) - Helio Castroneves doesn’t mind benefiting from the misfortunes of his closest title contenders in the IndyCar championship. Not even from a controversial penalty that led to criticism of his team.
At this point in the season, Castroneves is taking all the luck he can get.
He knows he got lucky on Sunday in Sonoma when Scott Dixon lost a chance to win the race after being penalized for running into a pits member working on the car of Will Power, Castroneves‘ Penske teammate.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” the three-time Indy 500 winner said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve been in the other side of these calls many times before. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
The Chip Ganassi Racing team accused Power’s tire changer of getting in front of Dixon’s path on purpose to draw the penalty. Dixon didn’t hide his frustration after the race, saying “If that’s the way they want to try and win, that’s pretty bad.”
Castroneves took none of it.
“Rules are rules,” said Castroneves, who is seeking his first IndyCar title. “That same situation happened to me before in other occasions, including with their team involved, and I lost positions because I was blocked by a tire while trying to leave the pits.”
Castroneves himself has received his share of penalties and has been vocal against IndyCar racing officials in the past, including against Beaux Barfield, the race director who levied the Dixon penalty over the weekend.
A couple of years ago, he lashed out at then-director Brian Barnhart after being penalized on the last lap of a race in Japan. Castroneves had already been upset with Barnhart after a blocking penalty cost him a victory in Edmonton in 2010. Castroneves angrily confronted officials after leaving his car.
“I think we all say a lot of things when we are frustrated,” Castroneves said. “I’d also be disappointed if that happened to me. But everybody knows that it’s not going to be that call alone which will decide the championship. One race result cannot erase all the good work that we have done so far throughout the season.”
The penalty could become crucial in the championship, though, as Dixon was leading the race and could’ve reduced the gap to Castroneves to less than 10 points had he stayed ahead. The 33-year-old New Zealander, a two-time series champion, has put pressure on Castroneves recently with a remarkable run that included three wins in the last five races.
The result could’ve been even worse for the 38-year-old Castroneves had he failed to avoid serious damage after a series of incidents throughout the race in California.
“I was surprised I could finish the race. I have to say that some of my co-workers were a bit aggressive during the race. We were a bit lucky in that sense too,” Castroneves said. “It was a very positive result in the end, we have to thank the guy upstairs for helping this time.”