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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student


Penske dominates race

Rookie wins 500, brings team owner another winner

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the remaining laps dwindled, rookie driver Helio Castrovenes threaded his way through traffic and widened his lead at the Indianapolis 500. \nA wave of relief came over owner Roger Penske, a longtime 500 legend who won for a record 11th time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday in the 85th running of the "Greatest Spectacle of Racing." After a six-year hiatus, Penske returned in a triumphal fashion.\nCastrovenes and teammate Gil de Ferran swept the top two positions in Penske's first visit back to Brickyard since 1994. \n"This is the best day of my life, coming back like this," Penske said shortly after Castrovenes doused himself with the traditional bottle of milk. "We redeemed ourselves for the lousy things we did in '95. And I can tell you walking back to the garage with Al (Unser Jr.) and Emerson (Fittipaldi) after we didn\'t make the field and coming up to victory circle today is a big difference."\nIn 1995, neither of Penske's drivers -- two-time champions Fittipaldi and Unser Jr. -- managed to qualify. Since then, Penske hasn't been able to enter any drivers because of a CART boycott after the circuit contentiously split with the Indy Racing League. \nCART lifted its ban this year, and its drivers carried the day.\nThe talented but luckless racing scion Michael Andretti sped past the checkered flag in third place, 5.7359 seconds behind Castroneves. Jimmy Vasser and Bruno Junqueira came in fourth and fifth, while former IRL Champion and NASCAR driver Tony Stewart finished sixth before flying off to Charlotte, where he came in third at the Coca Cola 500. \nNicolas Minassian, the only other CART driver in the race, had engine trouble in the 74th lap and had to call it quits.\nWhile four IRL drivers led throughout the race, not a single emissary from the splinter circuit ended the race in the lead lap. Eliseo Salazar bore the IRL flag with a seventh-place finish.\nStill, CART drivers didn't gloat at their dominance.\n"We raced the IRL guys all day as well," said Andretti, who has lobbed volleys at the circuit in the past. "I think just luck was against them, I think. Through -out the race, they were mixing it up with us." \nIt didn't look good for the IRL at the start, when poll-sitter Scott Sharp overcorrected after sliding on the first turn, slamming into the outside retaining wall. An angry Sharp declined to discuss his accident at length with media gathered outside his garage, but owner Tom Kelly blamed cold tires -- a complaint that resurfaced throughout the day.\nSeven laps after Sharp's early exit, Sarah Fisher -- who received the biggest applause from the crowd after her introduction -- spun on almost the same spot. Scott Goodyear, a two-time Indy runner-up, hit the wall hard while trying to get out of the way.\nGoodyear, who's still being treated in the Methodist Hospital, suffered a fractured lower back. \nIn a few days, he'll return to his suburban Indianapolis home, where he'll recuperate for another eight to 12 weeks.\nOnly nine laps later, IRL point leader Sam Hornish Jr. spun out, sending Unser Jr. careening into the wall. The former champion -- whose fortunes have been sagging in recent years -- pounded his fist against the side of the car, knowing his day was done.\nUnser was unhurt -- except for his pride.\nHornish's car was towed to the pits, where it received a new set of tires. The rising star reentered the race four laps behind, pulling off a 14th place finish. He wasn't the only major IRL contender to suffer that fate -- former champion Buddy Lazier pitted with electrical problems.\nAfter losing four laps, he ended the race a distant 18th.\nEarly on, IRL kept in the running. Greg Ray led 38 of the first 100 laps, Sharp's teammate Mark Dismore led 29 and A.J. Foyt team driver Robby Gordon led 22 laps. Dismore had to pit with gearbox problem, eventually limping past the checkered flag in 16th place. \nIn lap 103, Andretti charged hard at Ray, who spun out and brushed against the third-turn wall.\nAndretti led 16 laps Sunday, bringing his total to 388 -- but he was hardly satisfied with his seventh top-ten finish.\n"Third is fine if you're driving for points," he said. "But obviously, leading the last lap is all I'm caring about."\nAndretti credited his finish to bad luck and lapses in judgment.\n"I made mistakes," he said. "In this race, you can't make mistakes."\nA pitstop collision with Tony Stewart damaged his front wing, which he said plagued him later the race. Rookie Cory Witherill's harmless spin on lap 138 led several drivers to pit under the yellow flag.\nCastroneves darted out first, in front of Stewart, who slammed on his brakes. Andretti -- the career leader in laps without a victory -- had nowhere to go. He tailended Stewart.\nIRL officials penalized Castrovenes, handing Stewart the lead. But Stewart -- who complained of foot cramps and barely made it to North Carolina on time -- pitted on lap 144 and never mounted another challege.\nCastrovenes grabbed the lead on lap 149 and never relinquished it.\nRobbie Buhl ran hard after him, bobbing around his tail only .4 seconds behind. But at 218 mph on lap 165, he lost control on the turn and flew into the wall.\nDe Ferran tried to maneuver to the outside of Castroneves, but the Brazilian rookie deftly wended through traffic. He held onto his lead, as de Ferran and Andretti slowly lost ground.\nBreaking all tradition, Castroneves abruptly stopped his car on the victory lap and scaled the 17-foot fence, pumping his fist at the roaring fans in the infield. Upon his urging, a few members of his crew joined him in his trademark victory celebration.\n"I knew he'd do something stupid," de Ferran said. "Obviously, he was extremely excited, as well he should be"

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