Castroneves has long road to title after qualifying infraction sends him to back

Updated: September 6, 2008, 6:57 PM ET
By John Oreovicz | Special to ESPN.com

JOLIET, IL - Helio Castroneves has been sent to the back of the grid for the IndyCar Series finale at Chicagoland Speedway.

Castroneves qualified his Team Penske Dallara/Honda fourth for the PEAK Antifreeze and Oil Indy 300, but Indy Racing League chief steward Brian Barnhart elected to penalize the Brazilian for driving under the white line that delineates the course boundary several times during the course of his four-lap qualifying run.

He'll start 28th. Penske's Ryan Briscoe claimed pole position, with championship leader Scott Dixon lining up on the outside of the front row.

"Brian went over the rule individually with each driver after the drivers' meeting, so it was made perfectly clear," said John Griffin, Vice-President of Public Relations for the Indy Racing League.

It is the second weekend in a row that Castroneves has fallen afoul of IRL officials. Last week during the Grand Prix of Detroit, Castroneves was ordered to cede the race lead to eventual winner Justin Wilson after Barnhart determined that Castroneves had blatantly blocked Wilson from passing.

When asked for a reaction to Saturday's penalty, Castroneves asked, "Is it official?" Upon being informed that the penalty had been confirmed to the media, Castroneves and Penske Performance President Tim Cindric sped off on motor scooters to consult with Barnhart.

Cindric returned a few minutes later and said: "I went over to talk to [Barnhart] and he said he only wanted to talk to Helio. I got de-invited.

"Helio's not going to talk about it tonight," Cindric added.

Castroneves later returned to the Team Penske transporter and after changing out of his race uniform, he uttered a terse "No comment" before again speeding off.

Castroneves trails Dixon by 30 points heading into Sunday's 300-mile race. An eighth place finish by Dixon will clinch a second IndyCar Series championship for the Target/Ganassi Racing pilot.

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.

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