LONG BEACH, California – Electrical problems prevented Helio Castroneves from challenging for the win today in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The driver of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet for Team Penske started from the pole for the third straight year, but for the third straight time, couldn’t convert it into a victory and finished ninth.
“It’s frustrating because we did have a really fast car,” Castroneves said. “We had the fastest lap of the race. It shows that we were in control.”
The Brazilian’s day started poorly when an electrical issue prohibited him from reaching full power on the race start. Castroneves, who won the 2001 Long Beach race from the pole, dropped from first to sixth before the end of the opening lap.
Castroneves dropped as low as 10th place before finding a rhythm and moving as high as third place. He set the quickest lap of the race on Lap 59, at 1 minute, 7.7696 seconds (104.542 mph). Two laps later, however, the bottom fell out when Castroneves broke the 50-mph pit speed limit and INDYCAR ordered him to serve a drive-through penalty. Unfortunately, the three-time Indy 500 winner sped through pit lane again when carrying out the drive-through and was subsequently put at the rear of the field for a Lap 69 restart.
He did climb six places over the final 17 laps to wind up in ninth, but was disappointed with the result. The past two years saw Castroneves finish second and third after starting from the pole.
“We had a great chance, I’m not saying to win the race, but I’m saying to finish extremely well,” Castroneves said. “I was in front of Josef (Newgarden) for a time and he finished third. It shows that we would have finished in the top three and I finished in ninth.”
Despite coming up short at Long Beach again, Castroneves remains happy with what the iconic street race has given him throughout his career. The 41-year-old, who has raced 12 times on the California street course, is confident his team will improve throughout the season.
“This place has treated me so well,” he said. “I do have my face near the podium in victory circle. Not always the fast car wins the race. We definitely have nothing to be ashamed of. We have to make sure we fix it so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Castroneves and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers will take part in an open test at Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday. The next series race is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park, April 21-23. The race airs live at 3 p.m. ET April 23 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.