May 13, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS — Helio Castroneves' car flipped over and went airborne Wednesday during a scary-looking crash in practice for the Indianapolis 500, less than an hour after he was docked eight points by IndyCar officials for a rules violation in last weekend's race.
The Brazilian star was not seriously injured.
"I have to say I was very lucky there was no big shunt," Castroneves said in a statement issued by Team Penske. "The accident was most impressive, but the good news is I am feeling very good."
Castroneves climbed out of the car under his own power and was quickly checked, cleared and released at the speedway's infield medical center. Team owner Roger Penske said there were no broken bones, though Castroneves did not take questions from reporters.
It was an uncharacteristically rough day Castroneves at Indy's 2.5-mile oval he knows so well.
His three 500 wins are tied for the most of any foreign-born driver in Indy history. His four pole wins here are tied for the second most ever, trailing only Team Penske consultant Rick Mears who won six. In addition, he finished as the 500 runner-up in 2003 and 2014, has seven other top-10 finishes in 14 career 500 starts and has qualified for the first two rows of the 33-car race 10 times. Qualifying for this year's May 24 race starts Saturday.
But this month hasn't exactly gone according to plan.
Castroneves was involved in a five-car melee at the start of Saturday's Grand Prix of Indianapolis, a crash that knocked New Zealand's Scott Dixon, from the rival Target Chip Ganassi team, out of contention before he even got through the first turn. Dixon complained then that Castroneves should have been assessed a drive through penalty for avoidable contact. Castroneves finished sixth. Dixon was 10th.
Race officials took no action Saturday but on Wednesday blamed Castroneves for causing the crash and trimmed his points total from 161 to 153, though he remained third in the standings. Teammates Juan Pablo Montoya (171) and Will Power (166) are sitting first and second, while Dixon is tied for fourth at 144. All four drive Chevrolet-powered cars.
"The penalty that fits the crime is a drive through and if that had happened, we wouldn't be talking about it now," Dixon said before Wednesday's practice began. "If they had addressed it then, I don't know exactly where he would have finished, probably between 12th and 15th."
A short time later, Castroneves was on the track. After completing his first lap of the day at 219.183 mph, his No. 3 car wiggled going through the first turn. The car spun, slammed into the SAFER barrier on the outer wall and then started rolling backward between the first and second turns when a gust of wind flipped the car over. It landed upside down before rolling over, winding up on four wheels.
"He just said that he got in the corner and turned as he normally would and the car snapped on him," Penske said. "The thing that we're surprised about is that as he got backward after he hit the wall. The car got airborne."
All teams are still trying to get accustomed to the new oval kit packages for the cars, which were used for the first time in opening day festivities on May 3. After the third practice day of the week, Castroneves and his team have some extra work ahead of them.
"This just set us back one day since it is Wednesday," Castroneves said. "I'm counting on my guys, my boys, to put the car back together and go back to work."