NASCAR & Auto Racing

Castroneves comes up short at Speedway

KANSAS CITY, Kan. —Six laps remained after the final caution Saturday. Nobody was catching Scott Dixon in the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 but Helio Castroneves, in second place, was sitting pretty.

With a second-place finish Castroneves could claim momentum heading into the Indianapolis 500 later this month. He could point to the symmetry of it all, a runner-up finish at Kansas last year preceded his third Indy 500 checkered flag.

But when it was over, Castroneves finished off the podium in fourth, passed by Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan.

"We let second place slip away," Castroneves said. "You can't blink. You blink like I did and two positions are gone. Still, a top-five finish is a positive result."

Castroneves spent most of the day among the top five, but that's no surprise. He's probably run more top five laps at Kansas than any other driver, certainly more than anybody without a victory.

Saturday made it nine-for-nine in top 10 finishes at Kansas. He's finished second twice and third twice.

But not only is Castroneves not driven into the Winner's Circle, Kansas is one of the few tracks in which he hasn't won a pole.

Still, the day had an upside feel until the final caution. At the restart, Castroneves got caught in some traffic but the car also didn't respond.

"The car changed," he said. "Others got faster and I didn't. It means we have to work four times harder for Indianapolis."

Instead of merely twice as hard. But if anybody can make this particular adjustment it's Castroneves.

In three previous years with Kansas as the Indy lead-in, Castroneves has held his ground or improved.

In 2007, he finished third at Kansas, third at Indianapolis. Castroneves was fourth in both races in 2008 before last year's championship, his third on the storied oval.

To become the fourth driver in history to win a fourth Indy, he'll need to overcome the cars — the Ganassi rides of Dixon and Franchitti and Andretti Autosport's Kanaan — that he couldn't overtake Saturday. Even Andretti's Ryan Hunter-Reay was bearing down on Castroneves at the end.

"The Ganassi cars kind of worry me a little bit," Castroneves said. "They were so strong, so fast. Like, whoa, wait a minute, what's going on? And Andretti ran great."

But Castroneves and his Team Penske teammates knows something about winning. Will Power captured the first two races this season, and Ryan Briscoe started from the pole Saturday.

"Team Penske is a master of preparation," Castroneves said. "We'll be ready."