HELIO CASTRONEVES MAKES FENCE CLIMB HIS SIGNATURE

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It started in Detroit, it exploded at Indianapolis and now it is expected.

When Helio Castroneves wins an IRL IndyCar TM Series event, his victory fence climb is as much a part of the post-race festivities as the interview with ABC, the Firestone hat, the fireworks, the trophy and the photos.

So how did it start?

It began at Detroit, when Castroneves scored his first CART win, driving for Marlboro Team Penske. He climbed the fence three more times with victories at Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca and Long Beach, before he showed up as a rookie at the Indianapolis 500 in 2001.

Tradition runs deep at Indianapolis, and for years, if a driver won, it was pretty simple. The driver did one victory ?cool down? lap, pulled into Victory Lane and drank milk.

Castroneves took a detour. When he won at Indianapolis as a rookie in 2001, he stopped his car on the frontstretch, climbed from the cockpit and ran over to the outside retaining fence and climbed halfway up in celebration.

The massive crowd roared with approval.

It was asked in the post-race press conference if he had been advised against doing so, given the traditions of Indianapolis.

?Nobody said anything like, you?ll get a fine or something like that,? Castroneves said. ?Hey, I just want to express my feelings, and I think everybody liked that.?

It was liked so much that when he repeated his victory in 2002, he climbed the fence again and was joined by his crew, including team owner Roger Penske.

Castroneves has climbed the fence a total of 11 times, six in CART and five in the IndyCar Series.

?We have to have a little bit of fun,? Castroneves said. ?It?s not all the time like, ?Oh, my God, I have to do this or that.??

IndyCar Series racing is physically demanding, so much so that at times, Castroneves has had to find energy to do his traditional climb.

?At Indy and Phoenix I was pretty tired,? Castroneves said. ?I was fatigued when I climbed the fence (at Nazareth). A couple of times I slipped a little bit. (I thought), ?Gosh, I cannot fall over here. It's going to look bad.??

He?d like to climb the fence a few more times in 2003, and perhaps after an IndyCar Series Championship. He is the point standings leader with three races to go and leads his Marlboro Team Penske teammate Gil de Ferran 429-404.

The next event on the IndyCar Series schedule is the Delphi Indy 300 Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Should he win there, Castroneves might just climb over the fence and join fans in the grandstands.

?We're going to keep going higher and higher,? Castroneves said. ?Hopefully I?ll have a bungee cord to help me coming down.?

The higher he climbs, the greater the risk. But just when he?s in his IndyCar Series car, Castroneves is thinking safety first.

?Trust me, I'm going to keep using, not only the helmet, but the gloves as well,? Castroenves said. ?Don't try this at home, huh??

Click here for information about the September 5-7 ARCA/IRL weekend.

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