Qualifying penalty frustrates Castroneves' day in Belle Isle opener

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DETROIT – Team Penske ace Helio Castroneves was still annoyed after today’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear race.

He had just finished a solid seventh in his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet to winner Graham Rahal. At the end of the race, Castroneves was second in series points, just two behind Scott Dixon heading into the second race of the weekend doubleheader at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

But “Spider-Man” is a perfectionist, from his hair to his driving boots, and he was frustrated the day hadn’t worked out better.

Earlier today, Castroneves, coming off a second-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 on May 28, had briefly been on pole for the race before he was penalized by INDYCAR for not reducing his speed at least 15 percent in the area of a local yellow. The result? Loss of his fastest lap, which would have been a record 1 minute, 13.8901 seconds on the 2.35-mile temporary street circuit.

Instead, Rahal, who drives for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, started up front with a lap of 1:13.9681.

Castroneves, a three-time Belle Isle winner, admitted to frustration.

“I was p---ed … I was really p---ed,” Castroneves said at his transporter after the race. “It is so difficult to get pole position. When you take it away, even though I slowed — that rule is saying I didn’t slow down enough, but I did — what is enough?

“But rules are rules and we’ve got to keep going. That gives me motivation to drive my hardest.”

Castroneves wasn’t complaining about his car, though.

“Yeah, we had a phenomenal machine,” said the three-time Indy 500 champ. “The car was really good. I was riding the heck out of it. Anytime you have where you push it and it responds, it is great.”

“I can’t say enough about the Hitachi Chevy and for Team Penske giving me an amazing car. Unfortunately, we got caught out by a yellow … kind of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

As strong as his car was, Castroneves wasn’t sure he would have been able to overtake Rahal, who led 55 of the 70 laps to win.

“He was strong, especially on the high-speed sections,” Castroneves said. “I felt we were really strong on the slow corners, but somehow my tires on (the Firestone alternate) reds started going away really fast.”

Castroneves believes he can rebound in Sunday’s second race.

“We have a good driver, good car and good team. We will be in the hunt.

“I wouldn’t change anything because the car was so good, and I know we can win tomorrow.”

Castroneves will try to avenge the pole position taken away today in Race 2 qualifying at 10:45 a.m. ET Sunday (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com). The second 70-lap race airs at 3:30 p.m. on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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