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Helio Castroneves described his third Indianapolis 500 as the best yet after winning the race just a month after he returned to the IndyCar Series following his tax evasion trial.
The Penske driver's career had appeared to be in jeopardy as he missed the St. Petersburg season opener while his trial in Miami progressed. But within a day of his not guilty verdict, Castroneves was back in the car for qualifying in Long Beach, and after a top 10 run there he went on to take second at Kansas then win from pole at Indy, where his team also triumphed in the Carb Day pit stop contest.
"This place is magical," said the euphoric Brazilian as he celebrated his victory. "It was a tough beginning of the season but things are starting to fall into place.
"This is the best month of May ever, thank you very much, I'm honored to be part of this team. Three [Indy wins], I can't believe it."
Castroneves took some time to compose himself after clinching the win, and admitted it had been an extremely emotional experience.
"I think my tears speak for everything," he said. "What a great team. I just have to thank the Lord first of all for giving me this opportunity, to be strong, to give me the family I have, Roger Penske and my guys because they gave me my life back.
"I'm here today because of those guys, and obviously the fans. You guys don't understand, you kept me strong. Thank you so much, I'm honored to have fans like you, thanks you much. Let's celebrate now."
For a brief period in the middle of the race it looked like the Ganassi team was set to dominate, with Castroneves falling back to sixth for a stint. But he said he had remained patient.
"First of all we were having all sorts of problems with the radio from the beginning of the race and then we had a little issue with the gearbox in pistops getting neutral and I had to change it mechanically," he said. "Finally at the end I had a good feeling with the car, I didn't touch anything on car at all. It was a long race so you knew to take it easy. When we were behind I knew what we needed to do."