Friday, June 07, 2002

With Indy win on appeal, Castroneves prepares for Texas

AP Sports Writer

        FORT WORTH, Texas — With his Indianapolis 500 victory on appeal, Helio Castroneves prepares to race at Texas Motor Speedway, where last year he was involved in another controversial ending.

        Before owner Roger Penske moved his team to the IRL this season, Castroneves was in the rival CART series, which ended its only appearance at TMS with an unprecedented race-day cancellation in April 2001 because of concerns for driver safety.

        “I'll guess the controversy follows me,” Castroneves said, the always-glowing smile slipping through his words.

        Castroneves will start fifth in Saturday night's Boomtown 500, the IRL's first race since he won his second straight Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago. The IRL ruled he was still ahead of Paul Tracy when a yellow flag came out on the next-to-last lap.

        Tracy's team is appealing the decision. The CART regular, who had rapidly closed in on Castroneves in the final laps at Indy, claimed he completed the pass before the caution came out for a crash.

        “It's a controversy that I'm sure is going to go on forever. It's a situation where I can't control other people think,” Castroneves said. “They have the right to think what they want. I'm happy to be the official winner.”

        A hearing is expected within 30 days, but a date hasn't been set.

        In his first race since Indy, Tracy won CART's Miller Light 250 at the Milwaukee Mile last Sunday.

        In Texas, Castroneves will try to keep Scott Sharp from becoming the first IRL driver to win the same race three years in a row. Sharp has won the last two summer races at the 1 1/2-mile track in exciting fashion.

        Sharp starts 16th Saturday night. Rookie Tomas Scheckter earned the pole, and will be on the front row with his teammate and owner Eddie Cheever Jr.

        Last June, Sharp was in a three-car duel with Cheever and Greg Ray. The trio went three-wide and side-by-side for most of the last 40 laps until a backstretch crash on the 196th of 200 laps that took out Cheever and Ray.

        The summer before that, Sharp beat Robby McGehee, whose lapped car was involved in last June's crash, by .059 seconds. That was the closest finish in IRL history — until last fall when Sharp was in front again.

        Sharp led in the IRL's 2001 finale at Texas when season champ Sam Hornish Jr. passed him just feet from the finish line. Third-place finisher Robbie Buhl was just .0468 seconds, or about a half-car length behind Hornish, for the closest 1-2-3 finish in open wheel racing.

        “This race will be different for Helio. I'm excited to get out there with him,” said Sharp, who finished 27th at Indy with a blown engine after 137 laps. “To be potentially in the big high-speed pack that never really moves around, never dissipates, I think it will be something a little different for him.”

        Packs of a dozen cars or more going more than 210-220 mph lap after lap while separated by only inches have become the norm on the high-banked quadoval.

        Texas has been a perfect match for the IRL cars, but CART canceled its scheduled race after 21 of 25 drivers experienced dizziness or disorientation during two days of practice there.

        The turbocharged Champ cars reached speeds of up to 236 mph on the track, where the 24-degree banking was unprecedented for the series.

        “The speeds were too fast. I felt the same type of issues everybody was talking about,” Castroneves said. “I thought it was because it was the first time on an oval, and I thought I was out of shape.”

        Castroneves, now the IRL points leader ahead of teammate Gil de Ferran, doesn't worry about those kind of problems this week. He has tested at Texas, plus, he has gotten used to ovals.

        “Yes, I am comfortable having done the test here and the car handling well,” the Brazilian said. “Hopefully, we'll have as much fun as we did at Indy.”


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Elyria stymies Hamilton with 1-hitter
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