Tim “The Gambler” Cindric
September 4, 2010
With only two rounds remaining in the IndyCar season, Dario Franchitti continues to chip away at Will Power’s points lead. Power arrived at Kentucky Speedway for the Kentucky Indy 300 with a 23-point lead over Franchitti but left only 17 points ahead of his rival after finishing a disappointing eighth. Though Power’s Penske Racing teammate Ryan Briscoe did not finish the race due to an accident, a surprise win by Helio Castroneves gave Roger Penske something to smile about.
Before the start of the race, a few drivers raised eyebrows in the paddock during qualifying. Ed Carpenter took his first career pole ahead of Power and Dan Wheldon, while rookie Bertrand Baguette qualified an impressive sixth for Eric Bachelart’s operation. Carpenter shot out of a cannon when the green flag dropped with a healthy lead over Power but was slowed on the second lap due to a crash in the fourth turn involving Takuma Sato. Following the restart, Carpenter’s Panther Racing teammate Dan Wheldon made his move and took the lead on lap 11.
Wheldon, whose plans for 2011 have not been finalized, aimed to make a strong impression by taking his first victory of the year for Panther Racing and dominated the early stages of the race. Carpenter and Power trailed in second and third before pit stops shuffled the order at the front. With stops out of the way on lap 61, Power emerged with the lead over Scott Dixon, Wheldon, and Tony Kanaan, while Castroneves quietly ran in seventh and Carpenter dropped to tenth. Within a few laps Wheldon moved back into second and held onto the position until the race was slowed on lap 80 after Vitor Meira collided with Simona de Silvestro, who clipped Ryan Briscoe’s car in the process.
Unbeknownst to the leaders, the yellow set up Castroneves’s economy run to the end of the race. After making a scheduled stop, Castroneves returned to his pit stall to check whether his right-rear tire was secured. Race strategist Tim Cindric used the opportunity to top Castroneves off on fuel and put him on a slightly different fuel strategy than the rest of the field. Following the race, Castroneves jokingly referred to Cindric as “the gambler” while discussing the strategy. “It was kind of like rolling the dice, but this guy, he’s kind of like the gambler,” noted Castroneves.
When the race was restarted Castroneves advanced a few positions before his next stop but never sat higher than thirteenth. At the front, Power continued to lead over Wheldon, Dixon, and Carpenter, who climbed back into the mix with the leaders. After making what he hoped was his final stop on lap 142, Power nearly brushed the retaining wall just as Wheldon was burning out of his pit stall. When Wheldon rejoined the action, he found himself with the lead while Power had dropped to fifth and Franchitti had taken second. Castroneves, who stopped three laps later than most of the leaders, sat in ninth.
With a handful of laps remaining, Castroneves backed off the gas to ensure he would make it to the finish. Meanwhile, Wheldon held onto the lead over Franchitti and Carpenter, until he and the leaders dropped into the pits for a quick splash of ethanol. The pit stops handed the win to Castroneves, who crossed the line with enough ethanol to drive his car into victory lane.