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Helio Castroneves wins IndyCar Iowa Corn 300

Helio Castroneves celebrates after winning the Iowa Corn 300, quieting talk that his time at Penske could be coming to an end.

Associated Press

Helio Castroneves celebrates after winning the Iowa Corn 300, quieting talk that his time at Penske could be coming to an end.

NEWTON, Iowa — Helio Castroneves dominated the IndyCar Iowa Corn 300 on Sunday at Iowa Speedway — where fans were invited to sample a free ear of corn before the race — for his first victory since 2014.

The 42-year-old Castroneves led 217 of 300 laps, giving powerhouse Team Penske its first victory on Iowa's short oval in 11 tries.

It was the 30th career win for Castroneves, the Brazilian who was winless since the first race of the Belle Isle doubleheader in Detroit in June 2014.

Castroneves passed Al Unser Sr. for fourth in career laps led. "It's just like the first time, man," Castroneves said. "We've been close so many times, and finally luck was a little bit on our side."

J.R. Hildebrand was a career-best second, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and Graham Rahal.

Scott Dixon finished eighth but still leads the standings by eight points over Castroneves.

Castroneves has won the Indianapolis 500 three times and remains among the most popular drivers in the series. But his star had faded in recent years as teammates Simon Pagenaud and Power secured championships.

Castroneves had finished second eight times since his last victory, and there was recent speculation that his time at Penske could be coming to an end.

"I never doubt. That wasn't even in my thoughts," he said. "I've had great support — and especially Team Penske. They never gave up on me. We were always there. We were always good."

Hildebrand took control early in the No. 21 car that Josef Newgarden won with in Iowa in 2016.

But he lost his lead when Castroneves beat him off pit lane after Carlos Munoz's crash brought on a caution halfway through the race.

Hildebrand then got ahead of Castroneves after the field went in for their final pit stops. But Castroneves was back in front with just over 30 laps left and used the fresh air — and the good fortune of a long green-flag run — to cruise to victory.

FORMULA ONE: Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg, and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel finished just behind in second to extend his championship lead over main rival Lewis Hamilton to 20 points. Bottas, starting from the pole, had a bad tire at the end but did just enough to hold off Vettel's late charge, with the German driver finishing 0.6 seconds behind. Hamilton was fourth. Bottas is 15 points behind Hamilton and is close to getting into contention for the title.

NHRA: Steve Torrence won the Route 66 Nationals for his fifth Top Fuel victory of the season, beating Antron Brown in the final in Joliet, Ill. The points leader edged Brown with a 3.779-second pass at 326.08 mph. Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Drew Skillman in Pro Stock and LE Tonglet in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Capps raced to his sixth victory of the season. The points leader beat Tommy Johnson Jr. with a 4.026 at 319.67.

Helio Castroneves wins IndyCar Iowa Corn 300 07/09/17 [Last modified: Sunday, July 9, 2017 8:58pm]
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