IndyCar takeaways: Castroneves cruises to snap winless streak

Helio Castroneves found the top of the podium for the first time in three years as he took the Iowa Corn 300.

Three years and 54 races race later, Spider-Man climbed the fence once again.

Fittingly with a new Spider-Man film in theatres, Helio Castroneves shattered his lengthy Verizon IndyCar Series winless streak by cruising to his 30th career victory Sunday at the Iowa Corn 300.

Castroneves dominated by leading 217 of 300 laps and crossed the finish line with a nearly four-second gap on JR Hildebrand. Ryan Hunter-Reay was third followed by pole sitter Will Power.

The 42-year-old Castroneves’ “dabulous” drive was a long time in the making, so much so that dabbing definitely wasn’t a thing back in June 2014 when he last won a race.

It’s not as if Castroneves hadn’t been competitive. He scored eight runner-up finishes and stepped on the podium a total of 13 times. This season alone he came in second at Indianapolis and finished third just two weeks ago at Road America after starting on pole position. Just for one reason or another he hadn’t won in three years and it was one of those things that couldn’t last forever. Castroneves also entered Sunday’s race second in the championship chase thanks to parity that has seen nine different drivers now win races this season.

Speaking of the championship, a series title has been the only thing more elusive for Castroneves, who has yet to capture one in his 20-year IndyCar career. His victory has now cut Scott Dixon’s lead down to eight points with just six races remaining on the schedule.

If the old saying that winning comes in bunches holds up, could the floodgates now be open for Castroneves? Either way, Castroneves is now the driver to watch next weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto.

Dixon holds on to top spot … for now

Although Dixon was coming off of a win at Road America, Iowa Speedway is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum as the series shifted from the longest road course to the shortest oval track.

Dixon was well off the pace starting 17th, but salvaged an eight-place finish to maintain his lead in the title chase. The 36-year-old from New Zealand was gifted an extra two points as Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan waved Dixon ahead near the end of the race. Hey, that’s what teammates are for, right?

Luck finally on Hunter-Reay’s side

Andretti Autosport has been the team to beat at Iowa Speedway historically, with seven wins including six in a row from 2010 to 2016. Three of those victories came courtesy of Hunter-Reay. However, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has struggled this season sitting 15th in the championship.

Hunter-Reay has had more than his share of misfortunes this season and with his past success Iowa seemed to be the right ailment. Starting 15th on the grid didn’t deter Hunter-Reay though as he was the biggest mover up the field finishing third on the podium. Hunter-Reay will look to build some momentum north of the border having scored a victory at Toronto during his 2012 championship season.

Hildebrand matches career-best finish

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden entered Iowa Speedway as the defending champ, but he took the chequered flags a year ago driving for Ed Carpenter Racing. Hildebrand is now behind the wheel of the Ed Carpenter Racing car and seemingly picked up right where Newgarden left off starting second on the grid.

Hildebrand held steady in second place to match his previous career-best finish, which you may recall came at the 2011 Indianapolis 500 where he was leading until crashing on the final turn and the late, great Dan Wheldon ducked into first.

As for Newgarden, he was in for an uphill battle starting 16th on the grid. Newgarden’s strategy seemed to be a little from column A and a little from column B using both his past experience with Ed Carpenter Racing and his new knowledge gained at Team Penske to surge through the field to finish a respectable sixth.

Hinchcliffe finishes 10th in 100th race

Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe reached the century mark by driving in his 100th career IndyCar race.

The 30-year-old from Oakville, Ont., couldn’t fend off the likes of Newgarden and Dixon, who both breezed right past him, and had a few shaky moments where his car almost broke loose. Hinchcliffe and Kanaan were battling for position and came close a couple times, but luckily for both they kept it clean and avoided another incident like the one at Texas that knocked Hinchcliffe (and a bunch of other drivers) out of the race.

Hinchcliffe’s 10th place finish might not be all that memorable, but it’s a recovery of sorts following three consecutive DNFs. He’s turning things around right as the series now focuses its attention on the hometown hero for next week’s Honda Indy Toronto.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.