Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Castroneves bags emotional Indianapolis 500 win

A month and a half ago, Helio Castroneves was staring jail in the face. This past Sunday, he had tears in his eyes following his third career win in the Indianapolis 500.

Castroneves, who was acquitted in late April of charges of tax evasion, completed the storybook ending with his win. He took the pole earlier in the month, and over the course of the month's practice sessions, he clearly had one of the fastest cars.

He pulled away on a late restart, leaving Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick to fight it out for second place. No one was going to deny Castroneves his personal tale of redemption.

Not that Castronever needed the popularity boost. He was already among the series' most visible drivers, thanks in part to his success on the track and his infectious, outgoing personality. Being a champion of ABC's Dancing With the Stars helped.

But fighting the IRS and winning, only to come back and immediately take IndyCar's most prized trophy? Hollywood executives would reject such a stript, claiming it to be too unbelieveable.

Believe it.

Castroneves' win was even larger, since the 93rd running of the Indy 500 had the motorsports stage largely to itself. Rain forced NASCAR to push the Coca-Cola 600 to Monday, allowing all of American motorsports to take in Castroneves' accomplishment and rightfully praise him for the way he handled himself in and out of his Roger Penske-owned car.

Wheldon's second-place effort in a Panther Racing ride was impressive -- no longer among the elite with Penske and Chip Ganassi -- as was Patrick's third. Patrick eclipsed her career-best of fourth at the Yard of Bricks, using patience and calm rarely exhibited before to turn in a performance that, in other years, would've generated a lot of buzz.

Castroneves' win was the only thing that could quiet Danica Mania. That win, couple with a second-place finish at Kansas in April, might propel Castroneves into IRL championship contention -- even though he missed the season-opener because his trail was still ongoing.

In a perfect world, the IRL would take Castroneves' win and use that to build on its popularity. But NASCAR is still king of American motorsport -- even with its struggles of late -- and few things outside of Patrick winning would catapult the IRL into the mainstream for more than a Sunday in late May.

Still, even if it only lasted a day, it was great story, wasn't it?

93rd Indianapolis 500
1. Helio Castroneves
2. Dan Wheldon
3. Danica Patrick
4. Townsend Bell
5. Will Power
6. Scott Dixon
7. Dario Franchitti
8. Ed Carpenter
9. Paul Tracy
10. Hideki Mutoh
11. Alex Tagliani
12. Tomas Scheckter
13. Alex Lloyd
14. Scott Sharp
15. Ryan Briscoe
16. A.J. Foyt IV
17. Sarah Fisher
18. Mike Conway
19. John Andretti
20. Milka Duno
21. Vitor Meira
22. Raphael Matos
23. Justin Wilson
24. E.J. Viso
25. Nelson Philippe
26. Oriol Servia
27. Tony Kanaan
28. Robert Doornbos
29. Davey Hamilton
30. Marco Andretti
31. Graham Rahal
32. Ryan Hunter-Raey
33. Mario Moraes

No comments: