By Will Martin
One of the great things about enjoying an Indy Car race in the month of June is the manner in which the race builds.
It starts by day and finishes up under the lights with a rabid fan base watching and a national audience doing the same.
The afternoon began inside the media center as three people were honored for their heroism in light of what happened in West, Texas and also a few weeks ago in Moore, Oklahoma.
Jennifer Simonds, Sam Canady, and CJ Gillespie were named honorary marshals for their acts of heroism in times of something tragic.
There was also a tee-shirt the powers that be created which said, ‘Texas Loves You Moore!’ Amen.
Not since Arie Luyendyk has a racer won both the INDY 500 and the IRL race in Texas in the same year. The weather was right at 90 with little humidity. I was pretty confident Tony Kanaan could be in the thick of things when all was said and done. Marco Andretti also had ideas about winning as did last years winner Will Power.
Sometimes Will Power is not enough.
Saturday night’s theme was more about how well the tires held up at the turns at Texas Motor Speedway. Marco Andretti led for the first 57 laps. Will Power had a lead for about 4 laps. Ryan Hunter-Reay would possess the top spot for 35 laps. That accounted for the first 96 laps of the night amidst three cautions for 27 laps. Helio Castroneves took over at Lap 97 and led the rest of the way for his fourth victory at Texas Motor Speedway.
The victory was the first of the season for Castroneves as well as Team Penske and, more importantly, gave him sole possession of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead. Castroneves, who entered the Firestone 550 tied with Marco Andretti (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet), now owns a 22-point advantage over Andretti, who finished fifth.
Despite finishing second and third Ryan Hunter Reay and Tony Kanaan both had positives to share:
Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet)
“That No. 1 DHL Chevy was great. We made the most of it, and we kind of lost it a little bit there when that yellow came out. Our strategy was was such that we needed that yellow to not come out. You know we had a good shot at winning it today, though. That was just an interesting race. It was hard to even get by some of that traffic. I was searching everywhere for the grip, I had so many catches out there that I thought were on the wall. It’s going to be tough to go to sleep tonight.”
Tony Kanaan (No. 11 Sunoco ‘Turbo’ KVRT-SH Racing Chevrolet)
“It was pretty good , but we obviously went off strategy. I’m really happy. We did a great job as a team. It’s the first race with the Sunoco Turbo car, so I hope they’re happy because I promised them a good race. I think third place as far as the championship goes is pretty strong so we’ll take it.”
Marco Andretti (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet)
“It’s always easier to be the Monday Morning Quarterback. I think it worked out for Ryan (Hunter-Reay) – he had a vibration and came in early. he went out, running some quick laps and he didn’t catch a yellow. We tried to do the same thing, we caught the yellow and the RC Cola car ended up a lap down. So it’s unfortunate and to top it off the worst guy in the championship fight against me won, but congrats to him.”
Congratulations to Team Helio for a race well run. Look forward to going back in November for the NASCAR side of things. My thanks to the people of Texas Motor Speedway and the media folks for the hospitality and the insights. A great time all around.