Castroneves makes 4th TMS win look easy

Posted Sunday, Jun. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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lebreton Once again, he danced Saturday night.

Helio Castroneves, to be honest, made it a waltz.

With 132 laps to go in Saturday’s Firestone 550, Castroneves whirled into the lead at Texas Motor Speedway, and that was that.

The affable Brazilian now has four IndyCar victory trophies from TMS and one from Dancing With the Stars.

The first IndyCar race at TMS 16 years ago was decided by a computer chip. The finish was narrow enough — and confusing enough — that rival owner A.J. Foyt punk-slapped Arie Luyendyk in Victory Lane.

A proud list of exciting finishes at TMS has followed, many of them in which the checkered flag margin was under a second.

This one, alas, was nearly five seconds, and seemed like five minutes.

Castroneves was that fast, that flawless. In a droll touch to the proceedings, Helio’s car and racing suit were prominently decorated with the logo of his chief sponsor, AAA, the auto club people.

The one thing that he and his crew didn’t need Saturday was a tow, a jump-start or a map from AAA.

On a night when drivers fretted about the tires, Castroneves sambaed away in his.

“That was interesting,” said driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished second. “You were just searching everywhere for a grip.

“I hope it was a good show.”

Some will view that as wishful thinking. When the night ends with one guy dominating for 132 trips around the tri-oval and only four cars on the lead lap, all semblance of suspense was increasingly lost.

Well, at least Helio was excited.

“Texas is awesome,” said Castroneves, who also won here in 2004, 2006 and 2009. “I love this place.”

Marco Andretti led Saturday’s race for the first 41 laps. Will Power and Hunter-Reay also had their moments in the lead. But Castroneves never seemed to be slowed by the field’s concern about the tires.

“It was the setup,” Castroneves said. “It was the Firestone tires. It was just a perfect night.”

Close, but winless, all IndyCar season, Helio showed later that he still knows how to climb the fence — his signature victory celebration.

In Victory Lane, Castroneves was presented with yet another winner’s cowboy hat, handed the traditional six-shooters and invited to fire away.

“Everybody better step away because I don’t know how to use these things,” Helio warned, maybe only half-kidding.

Like everything else on this night, however, Castroneves handled the celebratory pistol-raising flawlessly.

He dominated. He raced away from the field.

The crowd came for a race — another close, exciting IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Helio, the TV dance champion, turned it into a waltz.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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