Castroneves looking to start over at Sao Paulo 300

Apr 29 2011 - 4:05pm

SAO PAULO -- Helio Castroneves feels like he needs to start over after a dismal beginning to his 2011 IndyCar season and Sunday's Sao Paulo 300 may be the perfect place for him to turn things around.

Nothing has gone right for Castroneves this season. The three-time Indy 500 winner is only 14th in the drivers' standings and has not been able to finish higher than seventh in the first three races. He crashed twice, on one occasion knocking a teammate out of contention in the process.

"It's hard to explain, but nothing has happened the way we planned so far," Castroneves said. "It would be just perfect to start turning the page here in Brazil, in front of these fantastic fans. Hopefully they'll bring me some positive energy on Sunday."

The 35-year-old Brazilian began the season with a 20th-place finish on the streets of St. Petersburg after getting involved in a first-lap crash that erased his chances of victory. He helped trigger the multicar crash by bumping Marco Andretti from behind as the cars approached the first corner. He lost 15 laps as his crew worked to fix the broken suspension on his Penske.

"I know of my potential, I know that I can be running up front, fighting for victories," he said. "I can't keep my head down now, these things happen and that's life."

Castroneves had struggled in qualifying and couldn't get past ninth place on the grid, leaving him much more exposed to trouble at the start.

The goal from now on will be to avoid such situations.

"We can't put ourselves in a position where we can get into trouble," he said. "That's what happened in the first three races. Now we have to focus on scoring more points for the championship."

Castroneves started fourth at the Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, but his car wasn't handling well and he struggled to a seventh-place finish.

Things went from bad to worse in Long Beach two weeks ago, when Castroneves missed the braking point during a late restart and crashed into teammate Will Power of Australia, who was in contention for the win. Power returned to the race to finish 10th, while Castroneves couldn't manage better than 12th.

The Brazilian said his mistake was "unacceptable," prompting apologies to Power and the entire team.

"I have to thank the team because they kept supporting me and we are all trying to find a way to improve from this situation," he said.

Castroneves said one of the reasons for his early struggles are the double-file restarts that were added to races on street and road circuits this season to create more excitement.

"For the fans it's been great," he said. "But for us it's a bit different. I haven't been able to adapt to it, to the right timing of the braking, to reacting. The only good thing is that now other drivers will try to stay as far away from me as possible in these restarts."

Castroneves arrives in Sao Paulo with 56 points, 66 behind leader Dario Franchitti of Scotland. Besides putting his title chase back on track, a good result in Brazil would also give him a confidence boost for the most important race of the year on the IndyCar schedule, the Indy 500 on May 29.

"It would be good to gather some momentum going into Indianapolis and for the rest of the season," Castroneves said.

 

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