Smiling from ear to ear, Helio Castroneves leaped out of his car after pulling into the Pizza Ranch Victory Lane on Saturday afternoon. His crew gathered around the car to help Castroneves out, and the Brazilian driver could hardly contain himself.
“Nine points!” he exclaimed.
All this excitement took place before a single lap was run in the IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 250. In fact, this was just a qualifying win. Qualifying wins are certainly goals for drivers, but they end to be a means to an end. So why the excitement? Castroneves had just picked up what could amount to a crucial nine points in the tightly packed IndyCar points standings.
“Nine points right now is really welcome to be honest,” Castroneves said. “I’m very excited for what we achieved. Everyone did a hell of a job. The car was running really good.”
Castroneves did not have to run in the first two heats after putting up one of the fastest times in qualifying earlier in the day. He definitely seemed to feel watching those first two heats played to his advantage.
“We were watching the first heat and the second heat so that we could learn something,” Castroneves said. “It’s the toughest heat, the last heat, because you don’t know if you should make some changes or not, but we stuck with what we were doing and it paid off. It’s nice to see we’re making the right decisions with the car.”
The nine points helped pad Castroneves’ slim lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay heading into a race track where Hunter-Reay has had a ton of success in the past.
Will Power earned eight points by finishing second in the final qualifying heat. He appeared to close the gap on Castroneves late, but he appeared to settle for second place in the end. Power was happy with picking up the eight points, which ultimately proved crucial. He is now in 10th position in the points race. Without the eight bonus points, he would find himself in 12th.
“The car was definitely better than what we had in practice,” Power said. “I’m happy with second. I had a moment when I crossed the line at the bottom of the track and had him in my sights, but I backed off and settled for second. I thought it was a very solid run.”