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Back at scene, 2010 penalty fresh in Castroneves' memory

The Associated Press
Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2011

EDMONTON, Alberta – Helio Castroneves is returning to Edmonton to defend a win he says was stolen from him.

"I can't wait to be there to turn my season around and get my second victory in a row for Edmonton," he said. "Unfortunately, the series didn't agree with me."

Castroneves finished first at Edmonton's City Centre Airport last year, but was cited for blocking Team Penske teammate Will Power three laps from the finish. The drive-through penalty dropped Castroneves to 10th and Scott Dixon was declared the winner even though he didn't run one lap in front.

The ruling sent Castroneves into a rage, and he had to be restrained after he stormed the race officials' tower.

"I don't agree with what they did, but you have to move on," the 36-year-old Brazilian said.

It's one more perceived injustice he must avenge in a season marked by multiple crashes and mediocre finishes.

Castroneves has yet to hit the podium in 10 races – his best finish was fourth on the oval in Texas last month.

He sits 12th in the championship standings, a distant 181 points behind leader Dario Franchitti heading into Sunday's Edmonton Indy.

It has gotten so bad that the three-time Indy 500 winner has drawn criticism from other drivers, including Franchitti and Alex Tagliani.

Castroneves was involved in three crashes in the first three races, and then in Milwaukee last month, Franchitti accused him of repeatedly blocking and not understanding basic driving concepts.

"We've all had to adapt (to not blocking) ... but Helio has not really (adapted) and he continues to do it," Franchitti said at the time.

Castroneves disagreed and compared the Scot to a whiny child.

Tagliani, sent for a spin by Castroneves in Toronto on July 10, has since stressed that any success in Edmonton is tied to how much distance he can put between himself and the Brazilian.

"It's a snowball nightmare," Castroneves said. "I've been doing everything the same. I guess it's just one of those seasons.

"We just have to regroup, keep moving forward. The ovals seem OK, but the road courses seem really difficult."

Castroneves has taken the checkered flag at least once in each of his 11 seasons with Penske, but says he isn't focusing on keeping his streak going.

"I don't worry about that," he said. "If it will be, it will be."

He said it's not that is performance has fallen off, but that the other drivers on the IndyCar circuit are that much better.

"People don't realize the level of competition is so high – the level of the teams, the cars – that one bad result makes it very difficult (to compete for the title) now," he said.

It's been a humbling experience for the man from Sao Paulo with the infectious smile who has been second only to Danica Patrick among IndyCar drivers in mainstream popularity, having vaulted into the limelight after he won "Dancing With the Stars" in 2007.

His world was turned upside down soon after when he, his sister, and a third party were charged with federal income tax evasion.

He was acquitted after a six-week trial in 2009, but this May the IRS filed a civil claim in U.S. Tax Court saying Castroneves owes more than $6 million in taxes and penalties.

"The scar will always be there. We'll never forget what happened to us," he said. "It's not completely 100 percent over. All I can say is I have the right people to take care of this issue.

"I just have to continue racing. That's my expertise."

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