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Monday, May 25, 2009

It’s hard not to feel good for Helio after Indy 500 win

The Associated Press
Helio Castroneves reacts after winning the Indianapolis 500.

It’s a success story straight out of a movie.

A little over a month ago, Indycar superstar Helio Castroneves was in court on tax evasion charges staring at a judge, awaiting a decision on where he would be spending his future … behind bars, or behind the wheel of a racecar.

After a lengthy trial, Helio, along with his sister and lawyer Alan Miller (who also represents several NASCAR bigwigs, including Jimmie Johnson) were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Tearful after his acquittal, he rushed to get into the Indycar seat Roger Penske had held for him, and had decent runs in his first two races back. Then it was off to Indy, and since then everything has gone Helio’s way.

He won the pole, has been fast all month and took the checkered flag Sunday in the only Sunday race that was remotely interesting (The Grand Prix of Monaco was a snoozer, and the Coke 600 was postponed until Monday due to heavy rains).

When the tears kept flowing from Helio after the race, many racing outsiders may have thought it was a bit much, perhaps even insincere. But when you consider how quickly he has come back from the possible end of his career, I’m surprised he was able to suppress those emotions long enough to say anything.

Just weeks ago, he couldn’t even conjure the thought that he might win at Indy, let alone race there, and was just hoping for his freedom. It doesn’t matter who you are … a famous athlete or an average Joe … that situation would scare the crap out of anyone.

A month ago he was just happy to have his freedom, now he has won the biggest auto in Indycar for the third time in his career. Even more amazing, he has a shot at the title despite missing the first race of the season, as he is only a handful of points out of 1st.

Anyone who has followed open-wheel racing for a while knows that Helio is a genuinely likable guy who also has a ton of talent. If that judge had sent Helio to prison (which was a very strong possibility, since the Feds don’t usually charge people they don’t think they can convict), it’s possible he would have never raced again, and that would have been a shame for the Indycar series, which needs talented and marketable drivers like Castroneves.

What could have been another story of yet another athlete doing wrong has turned into one of the greatest turnaround stories in recent sports history.

I have a feeling that Helio Castroneves won’t stop celebrating for weeks, and he deserves it after fighting the battles he has fought over the past year.

Danica has a big day
Danica Patrick is starting to back up her celebrity with a series of solid runs. She finished third at Indy on sunday, and sits sixth in the points standings, just 13 points behind points leader Dario Franchitti. She is a legitimate title contender for the first time in her career, assuming she can keep up the pace she has set so far.


Blogger TexasRaceLady said...

Helio had every right to be in tears. He wears his heart on his sleeve, so his emotions are totally understandable.

This win will go far toward erasing the bad memories.

May 25, 2009 at 8:37 AM 

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