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Castroneves happy but carrying scar

INDIANAPOLIS - Success can soothe the pain. Helio Castroneves also knows that his anguish from the last six months will never completely disappear.

'The scar is going to be there,' he said.

Castroneves spoke Monday after posing for dozens of photos with his Penske Racing team, family members, sponsors and just about anybody else who wanted a picture with the latest three-time Indianapolis 500 winner.

The traditional morning-after photo shoot had to be moved from the finish line to a cramped, humid hospitality room because of rain. But Castroneves, who held up three fingers and smiled broadly for picture after picture, didn't mind.

'Inside, outside, I don't care,' he said. 'It's Indy and we won.'

He also earned a record prize: $3,048,005, the largest payout in auto racing history.

The former record was $2,988,065 to Scott Dixon last year. This year's total purse of $14,315,315 was just short of the record $14,406,580 a year ago.

Dan Wheldon, who finished second Sunday, earned $1,258,805; and third-place Danica Patrick earned $445,305. Alex Tagliani, who started 33rd and finished 11th, was selected rookie of the year and received $295,305.

The winnings for Castroneves were more than he earned from his first two wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2001 and 2002 combined in his first two years at the famed Brickyard. He also came close to victory a couple of other times, and this latest triumph could not have come at a better moment.

Just over a month ago, he was on trial for tax evasion and facing a possible six-year sentence that likely would have ended his racing career. The 34-year-old Brazilian was acquitted on most charges and the remaining count was thrown out Friday.

The trial ended in Miami on April 17, and Castroneves was in his race car the next day in Long Beach, Calif. He has been on a joy ride since, capping it Sunday with his biggest victory.

'I think, 'Hey, what I've been through, you've got to appreciate where you are right now.' I'll never forget,' Castroneves said. 'But, definitely, I'll move on from it.'

And he has. Castroneves can even joke about it.

Much has already been made of the fact Castroneves is the first foreign driver to join the elite ranks of three-time Indy winners.

'I remember hearing a guy, one of the fans say, 'Hey man, now (that) the IRS went after you, you're becoming an American now.' My attorney was right beside me,' Castroneves said, laughing. 'I said, 'OK man, you heard that. It wasn't me saying that.'

Castroneves was criticized by some for returning to driving so soon after his legal troubles ended. He insists there was no other way.

'When you put the helmet on, this is my world,' Castroneves said. 'It's like a shield. I have the control; I know what I'm doing. I've been doing this since I was 11, 12 years old. ... And, honestly, the team gave me the time and actually they were expecting the time to be longer. But, fortunately, we didn't wait that long and now we're sitting here as the winner of the Indy 500.'

Team owner Roger Penske never wavered in his support of Castroneves. He said Sunday that, under the circumstances, this win is the most gratifying of his team's record 15 Indy victories.

'I can say we never, ever were going to leave his side,' Penske said. 'It's worked out and I think the payoff was not only for him but for everybody on this team.'

Castroneves showed how much this win meant to him when he shed tears in Victory Lane.

The 'second one, back to back, so many years, 30 years for somebody to do that,' he said. 'And this year, with everything happening in my life, to suddenly be here, this one is incredible.'