Helio Castroneves wasn’t even scheduled to compete in the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) season-opener at Five Flags Speedway, but on Saturday night, he’ll be leaving Pensacola, Florida with a trophy.
The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner turned the heads of many in Saturday’s event, after winning the event’s second heat race, after contact with Ernie Francis Jr. relegated him to a 12th-place finish in the first heat.
Polar opposite finishes in the two heats placed him in the fifth starting spot for the 75-lap feature event, behind a number of competitors who had shown their strength throughout the 66 laps of action to that point.
While it wasn’t necessarily an easy victory, the NTT IndyCar Series driver led the race’s final 16 laps, after triumphing in a battle against Tony Kanaan, then eventually taking advantage of a fierce battle for the runner-up spot between Ryan Newman and Bubba Pollard.
Castroneves would beat Pollard to the start-finish line by 1.7 seconds for his first victory in the Camping World SRX Series, in his seventh career start. In his SRX Debut, Ryan Newman finished in third place, with Tony Kanaan – who led a race-high 43 laps — and Bobby Labonte rounding out the top five.
Greg Biffle, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Bill Elliott, and Tony Stewart rounded out the top 10.
Ernie Francis Jr, Paul Tracy, and Michael Waltrip all struggled throughout the evening, scoring finishes of 11th, 12th, and 13th, respectively.
The Superstar Racing Experience heads to South Boston Speedway for the second event of the 2022 season, on Saturday, July 25th, at 8:00 pm / ET on CBS. Peyton Sellers is scheduled to serve as the ringer in the event.