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Published: Monday, 6/18/2001

Castroneves makes it two in a row at Detroit Grand Prix

BY DAVE WOOLFORD
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - There has become a strong affliction of arachnophobia on the Championship Auto Racing Team (CART) circuit.

Everyone is becoming fearful of “Spiderman,” alias Helio Castroneves.

He wears his emotions on his sleeve, his expertise on his shoulders and his fortitude on his foot - the one that pushes the accelerator of his Marlboro Team Penske Reynard/Honda.

The little Brazilian with the big smile, matched only by the size of his racing brilliance, won his second consecutive Detroit Grand Prix yesterday on Belle Isle. He led from wire-to-wire after starting on the pole.

And then came more wire.

He leaped from his car after the race and ran down the track until he was in front of a portion of the grandstands, where he climbed the chain-link fence, shaking his fist in glee for the fans. It's a post-race celebration he contrived here last year when he captured his first CART race in his third year on the circuit.

“Detroit, you guys made me!” Castroneves then yelled into a microphone. “We started here and we're going to continue here! This is my town, yeah! I want to stay over here (on Belle Isle)! It's such a great place. You guys deserve us!”

He was wired as usual, his personality abounding, as usual.

The “H” in Helio is silent, but not the engaging man himself, especially in a race car where he lets his talent to the talking.

He has one personality with two different settings.

He scales fences in “Spiderman” fashion, but he also has a don't-fence-me-in attitude when he's inside a race car.

“It's like a switch, you know?” Castroneves explained. “You are able to do that when you have a good concentration.

“In the race car I'm totally cool. I'm trying to make sure I do my job the best. As I put on my helmet and close my visor you have to make sure - you have to know what you're doing. You have to keep cool. You have to hit your marks all the time.

“I don't change like two faces. You see me here (at the post-race interview) and it's what I'm like outside the car. You can't show your emotions inside the car or you won't drive very well. I don't think I change. I hope I never change because that's what makes me unique and that's what I like to be.”

Other things are also beginning to make Castroneves unique, such as his fifth victory in the last year and his charge toward a possible CART championship.

Two years ago he lost his ride when his team, Hogan Racing, ceased operations.

Today, the Indianapolis 500 winner trails points-leader Kenny Brack by just five (74-69), sweeping all 22 points available this weekend. Brack started 10th and finished ninth. He had a 23-point advantage (70-47) over Castroneves going into the weekend's activities.

It was the second time this season Castroneves led from wire-to-wire, the other time being at Long Beach, Calif., last April. Michael Andretti was the last CART driver to win two races wire-to-wire in one season, accomplishing the feat in 1992.

Dario Franchitti finished second with Roberto Moreno third and Andretti fourth.

Moreno did a little celebration of his own after the race, spinning his car in a doughnut-making fashion. His previous best finish this season was 10th in Japan last May.

“You guys don't believe how happy I am to have this result here,” Moreno said. “I had a bad-result situation for a long time and now I hope I can fight up front with the top cars.”

Franchitti didn't do anything out of the ordinary following his best finish of the season.

“Helio didn't make any mistakes and I couldn't pass him because we were going the same speed,” said Franchitti, who finished seventh-tenths of a second behind Castroneves. “My only hope was that he would make a mistake and he, as he said, was like a watch all day. No mistakes.”

The watch is out for “Spiderman.” He wants to remain wired.



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