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2001 INDY 500: Castroneves wins 85th Indianapolis 500 mile race

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Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel

May 27, 2001

INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 27, 2001 - Helio Castroneves became the eighth rookie to win the Indianapolis 500, holding off his Penske Racing teammate, Gil de Ferran, by 1.7373 seconds for victory May 27 in the 85th edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Michael Andretti finished third, 5.7359 seconds behind Castroneves.

The victory increased team owner Roger Penske's record total of Indianapolis 500 victories to 11. Penske's last win came in 1994 with Al Unser Jr. driving. That was the last year that Penske competed in this race, as his team failed to qualify in 1995 and didn't participate from 1996-2000.

"This is a fantastic team effort," Castroneves said. "Roger, thank you very much. These guys worked so hard. Everybody. I'm amazed at this crowd.

"It's unbelievable. I'm just so happy to win it."

Castroneves, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, led 52 of 200 laps in the No. 68 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. He took the lead for the first time on Lap 149 when Tony Stewart made a pit stop during a caution period and never trailed thereafter. His winning average speed was 153.601 mph.

The race was stopped after Lap 155 due to rain. The delay lasted 16 minutes, 34 seconds. Rain also caused a caution period from Laps 107-118.

de Ferran challenged Castroneves for the lead in Turn 1 of Lap 172, on a restart after the last of eight caution periods on the day. The caution was caused when Robbie Buhl, running second to Castroneves, spun exiting Turn 2 on Lap 166.

On the restart, Castroneves and de Ferran were side by side in Turn 1, with de Ferran attempting a bold outside pass. But Castroneves held off the pass and kept the lead in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 and led the rest of the way.

In fact, Castroneves' lead dropped below one second only once after Lap 185. de Ferran pulled to within .4838 of a second at the end of Lap 199 as Castroneves was mired in lapped traffic. But Castroneves threaded his way through the traffic on the final lap, expanding his lead to the winning margin.

After Castroneves took the checkered flag, he drove around the track and then parked his car on the start-finish line. In his now customary victory salute, Castroneves sprinted from his car and climbed the catch fencing along the front straightaway to pump his fists in triumph and salute the huge crowd.

His Penske Racing crew then jumped the pit wall and climbed the fence with him in celebration in one of the most spirited victory celebrations in the long history of the race.

After another victory lap, Castroneves finally pulled into Victory Lane to receive the Borg-Warner Trophy and the traditional winner's drink of milk.

"Look at this, guys," Castroneves said when he was presented the bottle of milk. "I've been dreaming of this." The race had plenty of the drama and uncertainty that is an annual characteristic of the Indianapolis 500.

There were three caution periods in the first 18 laps as drivers struggled for grip to temperatures in the high 50's at the start of the race. MBNA Pole winner Scott Sharp hit the outside retaining wall in Turn 1 on the first lap and was eliminated. Sarah Fisher spun in almost the same spot as Sharp on Lap 8 and hit the outside retaining wall, collecting two-time Indy runner-up Scott Goodyear in the accident. Both were eliminated.

On a Lap 18 restart, Sam Hornish Jr. spun exiting Turn 4, and two-time Indy winner Al Unser Jr. hit the outside wall at the start of the front straightaway while trying to avoid Hornish. Unser was eliminated, but Hornish was able to continue after repairs.

Goodyear suffered a fractured lower back and was hospitalized at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He was the only driver injured during the race.

There were 14 lead changes among eight drivers.

This is the second consecutive year that a rookie has won the race, as Juan Montoya triumphed in 2000. The last time that feat occurred was 1926-27, when Frank Lockhart and George Souders won, respectively.

This also was the first time since 1997 that teammates have finished 1-2 at Indy. That year, Arie Luyendyk led Treadway Racing teammate Scott Goodyear across the line.

The purse winnings for Castroneves and the rest of the 33-car field will be announced at the Victory Celebration tonight.

Sam Hornish Jr. kept the Indy Racing Northern Light Series points lead despite finishing 14th. He leads Eliseo Salazar, who finished seventh, 152-131.

The next Indy Racing Northern Light Series event is the Casino Magic 500 on June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway. The 86th Indianapolis 500 is May 26, 2002.

Text provided by Paul Kelly

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