EDMONTON, Alberta -- Does this victory in the Edmonton Indy make up for 2010, Helio?
"It's fantastic," he said. "I think this place owed us a little bit."
Any victory at the same venue massages past results, and Helio Castroneves' win on the 2.224-mile, 13-turn City Centre Airport circuit was celebrated with his usual exuberant fence climb much to the delight of the throng of spectators in the Turn 1 grandstand.
Click it: Edmonton Indy box score
Castroneves held off Takuma Sato by .8367 of a second to win the caution-free, 75-lap race. Teammate Will Power, who started 17th because of a 10-grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change, charged to third and Graham Rahal tied his road/street course best finish of the season in fourth. Alex Tagliani, who led a field-high 49 laps after starting fourth, finished fifth.
Castroneves had been the runner-up in three of the past four Edmonton races, and was leading late in the 2010 contest when he incurred a penalty for blocking. Scott Dixon went on to win the race and Castroneves was credited with 10th place.
To this day, Castroneves vehemently disagrees with the call by Race Control. But all that thawed (at least temporarily) in Victory Circle as he blew kisses and thanked the spectators for their support.
“Maybe some people would disagree with me that it’s not my second win, (but) I can finally say I won here," he said.
Team Penske has won three of the five races at the airport track under INDYCAR sanction.
"It’s a credit to the team, obviously, when you see the competitive edge that’s out there with Takuma and all of the other drivers," team owner Roger Penske said. "You can’t make a mistake. The fuel economy was important. Today the Chevy engines ran great. I take my hat off to Helio. When they run that close for that many laps, I’ve got to take my hat off."
The last Indy car street/road course caution-free race was Portland in 2007 under Champ Car sanction. The last caution-free oval race was 2011 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Castroneves gained one position in the championship standings with his 27th Indy car victory (second of the season) -- 23 points behind Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished seventh. Power is third in the standings (26 points back) heading to the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5.
"The guys had a solid day today, but we just needed a yellow," said Hunter-Reay, who earned the pole but was dropped back 10 spots on the grid because of an unapproved engine change. "To take an engine penalty on a day like today -- at a track with long straights -- we expected yellows. Maybe lots of them, but we just didn't get 'em.
"It's strange. With all of the marbles we have out there, you'd expect someone to go off or spin or something. I was praying for a caution and it didn't come. Had we had a yellow, I think I could have gained spots on the restart. We soldiered on to seventh. It was one of those days; we had a fast car and good pit stops but couldn't make up the ground we needed to."
Castroneves, who tied Johnny Rutherford for 12th on the all-time win list, was running second to Tagliani when the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental car came down pit lane for the final service stop on Lap 51. Tagliani's No. 98 Team Barracuda-BHA car pitted a lap later, putting Power temporarily in the lead.
Castroneves then came down the .44-of-a-mile frontstraight and beat Tagliani's car to Turn 1, taking the lead on the pit exchange with Power on Lap 53. In third place on Lap 54, Sato overtook Tagliani for second in Turn 5. Power and Rahal followed in passing Tagliani in the next two laps.
"We never relaxed, to be honest, especially with Takuma right behind me," Castroneves said. "But it was a great battle for me, it was comfortable. And I was on it, I definitely was on it. Starting the race on the black Firestone tires was a great strategy for us. Then we kept on with the reds (alternates) for the last two stints, and from there on the reds were just getting better and better. For me, the car setup was good for the blacks and the reds basically helped me out to carry this win."
Castroneves couldn't shake Sato over the final 15 laps, leading by no more than the final margin.
"I really enjoyed it," said Sato, who recorded an IndyCar-best finish. "I wish that I would have enjoyed it a little more if I could overtake (Castroneves), but you know we were not quite there. He did obviously a great job; made no mistakes at all."
Dario Franchitti, who started on the pole after Hunter-Reay's 10-grid spot penalty, finished sixth. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who joined Franchitti on the front row, was eighth and Justin Wilson picked up one position to finish ninth. Dixon, a two-time Edmonton race winner celebrating his 32nd birthday, moved to 10th after starting 18th because of a 10-grid spot penalty for using the entry's sixth engine of the season (five is the limit, according to the engine manufacturer agreement).
“We missed something on the setup," Franchitti said. "The Target car was not bad on new tires but we had a massive imbalance there. I’m pretty sure I know what we missed so we’ll gather it up and head to Mid-Ohio in a few weeks.”