Penske never lost faith in his driver, and promised that his car would be waiting if his legal woes were resolved. After missing the season-opening race, Castroneves was acquitted by a jury and immediately hopped on a plane for an event at Long Beach, Calif.
No. 3 was waiting, just as Penske had promised.
“I had so much faith that Helio hadn’t done anything wrong,” the team owner said. “We were never, ever going to leave his side.”
Dixon was delayed getting a tire changed with 39 laps to go and slipped back to sixth, failing to become the first driver since Castroneves in 2001-02 to win back-to-back 500s. Franchitti settled for seventh after he also got held up on pit road late when he tried to pull away with the fuel hose still attached.
Two drivers who don’t even have full-time rides in the IndyCar series crossed the line behind Patrick. Townsend Bell was fourth, while Will Power — who filled in while Castroneves was on trial — finished fifth in a third Team Penske car.
It may have been a perfect month for Castroneves, but it wasn’t a perfect race. He had problems with his radio all day, and there were gearbox issues when he came into the pits. But he knew what to do on the track.
“Once I got in the front, it was, ’Never look back,”’ Castroneves said.
Rounding out the top 10 were Ed Carpenter in eighth, Paul Tracy and Hideki Mutoh. Tracy was racing at Indy for the first time since the disputed 2002 event, when a late caution froze the field just as he was going past Castroneves. The outspoken Canadian is still convinced he won that race — his appeal was turned down — but there was no doubt about this one.
It was Castroneves all the way.
“Wow, three,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”
The race had barely started when Mario Moraes drifted to the outside and made contact with Andretti, sending both cars into the wall going into the second turn.
The Andretti curse remains in force at Indy. Marco said there was nothing he could do when the 20-year-old Moraes pinched him into the wall.
“The kid doesn’t get it, and he never will,” said Andretti, only 22 himself. “He’s just clueless out there.”
Neither driver was hurt, and Andretti even got back on the track for 56 laps to finish 30th in the 33-car field.
Kanaan was running third when something snapped in his No. 11 car, sending it straight into the wall at about 190 mph. The helpless machine slid through the third turn and into the SAFER barrier again before finally coming to a stop.
The popular Kanaan wasn’t seriously hurt, but he sure was aching. It was another painful Indy moment for the hard-luck Brazilian, who had led the race a record seven straight years — but is still seeking his first 500 win.
“Me and this place,” Kanaan said with a sigh.
Video: Motor sports coverage
Hunter-Reay celebrates win in Milwaukee
Ryan Hunter-Reay speaks after winning the Milwaukee Mile for the second straight year. For the first time Hunter-Reay will be able to celebrate the win on Father's Day weekend with his son.
Latest from MotorSportsTalk
Brian Vickers to attempt grueling dual road-course weekend7 hr 19 min ago
Biffle downplays talk of feud with Edwards9 hr 8 min ago
Forget driving or flying to Sonoma NASCAR race: take the train12 hr 18 min ago
Sparks fly and cars spin out wildly when NASCAR drivers get into accidents.