Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hélio Castroneves of Brasil (Natch): 3-time Indy 500 Champion!

I'd gone out when the race was halfway over and Hélio was sitting in 5th, only to come back and see him in front of the pack by 1.1 seconds, with 10 laps to go!

WOOHOO!!! WHAT A COUNTDOWN: 10 ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ... 6 ... 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... I was just counting down every lap as Hélio zoomed around the track at 200+ mph, keeping a perfect line, with no one gaining behind him ... and with ONE LAP TO GO, his team leader radios him evenly: "One to go. Bring it HOME!" WOOT!

This was an emotional win for Hélio and his family, after a full acquittal on tax evasion charges in which he had faced 35 years in prison. It was the greatest win of his career, capping a storybook finish as he broke down and thanked team owner Roger Penske for "giving me my life back." Hélio Castroneves is a pure racer in the very best tradition of the great Brasilian champions of the past -- Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet, and the greatest of them all, Ayrton Senna.

It's no accident that Hélio is now poised to possibly become the only 4-time Indy 500 champion. He's a finisher. He knows the race goes not only to the swift, but also to the best strategist and most skillful driver, to the one who makes the least mistakes and relies on his team, because after all, it's a total team effort. He's smooth and consistent. Focusing on the marathon, not the sprint, he will get the most out of his car and his tires so that, in the end, he's all alone in front, literally and figuratively with something left in the tank.

And to cap off his many racetrack talents, in 2007 Hélio was crowned Dancing With the Stars Champion beating back none other than MARIE OSMOND! What a guy! What a Champion! : D

Congratulations, Hélio!

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