NEWTON, Iowa (AP) – Helio Castroneves dominated the IndyCar race Sunday at Iowa Speedway for his first victory since 2014.
The 42-year-old Castroneves led 217 of 300 laps, giving powerhouse Team Penske its first victory on Iowa’s short oval in 11 tries.
It also was the 30th career win for Castroneves, the Brazilian who was winless since the first race of the Belle Isle doubleheader in Detroit in June 2014.
Castroneves also passed Al Unser Sr. for fourth in career laps led.
“It’s just like the first time, man,” Castroneves said. “We’ve been close so many times, and finally luck was a little bit on our side.”
J.R. Hildebrand was a career-best second, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and Graham Rahal.
Series leader Scott Dixon finished eighth, two weeks after winning at Road America, but he still leads the standings by eight points over Castroneves.
Castroneves has won the Indianapolis 500 three times and remains among the most popular drivers in the series.
But his star had faded in recent years as teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power secured championships.
Castroneves had finished second eight times since his last victory, and there had even been recent speculation that his time at Penske could be coming to an end.
“I never doubt. That wasn’t even in my thoughts,” Castroneves said. “I’ve had great support – and especially Team Penske. They never gave up on me. We were always there. We were always good.”
Hildebrand, best known for crashing out on the final lap of the Indianapolis 500 in 2011, took control early in the No. 21 car that Josef Newgarden won with in Iowa in 2016.
But Hildebrand lost his lead when Castroneves beat him off pit lane after Carlos Munoz’s crash brought on a caution halfway through the race.
Hildebrand then got ahead of Castroneves after the field came in for their final pit stops. But Castroneves was back in front with just over 30 laps and used the fresh air – and the good fortune of a long, green-flag run – to cruise to victory.
Hildebrand matched the runner-up finish he had six years ago in Indianapolis.