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Hélio Castroneves Wins Camping World SRX Series 2022 Opener At Five Flags Speedway

From Steven Taranto / CBS Sports

A little over 24 hours ago, Helio Castroneves hadn't been planning to compete in the season opener for the Camping World SRX Series. Then, Castroneves changed his plans -- and based on the trophy he now has, it's a good thing he did.

After being a late entry for the SRX season opener, Castroneves outdueled fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan and short track ace Bubba Pollard to take the checkered flag and win at Five Flags Speedway. After clearing Kanaan for the lead, Castroneves built a comfortable lead for himself to cruise to victory as Pollard and Ryan Newman put on a spirited battle for second in the final laps.

According to Matt Weaver of Racing America, Castroneves' path to victory began at 10:34 p.m. ET last night, when he texted SRX's Don Hawk to see if there was a car available for him to drive. It turned out a car was available, and it ended up being quickly prepared for Castroneves to eventually take to the winner's circle.

To no one's surprise, former Snowball Derby winner and four-time Five Flags Speedway track champion Bubba Pollard quickly established himself as the driver to beat. The surprise, though, was who ended up challenging him for the win throughout the night. Pollard's primary challengers came from the IndyCar ranks, as Castroneves, Kanaan and Paul Tracy led much of the night between the opening two Heat races and the 75-lap main event.

Even in extreme heat -- temperatures were in the high 90s before sundown, so intense that they actually cooked the pace car before the main event -- Pollard looked like one cool customer. But his chance at winning was severely compromised when he cut down a left rear tire, forcing him to come to pit road under caution and then come all the way back from the rear of the field. Pollard's advance stalled at second, as he had to muscle the difficult-to-pass Ryan Newman out of the way on the final lap to take that spot.

There was a great deal riding on Saturday night's race for Castroneves. In Victory Lane, Castroneves revealed a bet he made with SRX CEO Don Hawk: If Castroneves won the race, Hawk would have to give Castroneves the funding to run a NASCAR race at Daytona for the first time in his career.

"Hawk said, 'Look, win a race and I'll help you find a ride for Daytona.' I'm like, 'Deal.' Hey, now he's got to make it happen on his end," Castroneves said post-race. "It's so cool to be here, and what a great opportunity."

When asked about the bet afterwards, Hawk confirmed what Castroneves said and added he'd hold up his end of the bargain.

"That was our deal; we're going to do it," Hawk said, per Weaver.

Next Race

The Camping World SRX Series returns next Saturday night, as the Superstar Racing Experience moves on to the legendary South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Va.

Check out the full story and results:

Final Results:

  1. Helio Castroneves

  2. Bubba Pollard

  3. Ryan Newman

  4. Tony Kanaan

  5. Bobby Labonte

  6. Greg Biffle

  7. Marco Andretti

  8. Ryan Hunter-Reay

  9. Bill Elliott

  10. Tony Stewart

  11. Ernie Francis Jr.

  12. Paul Tracy

  13. Michael Waltrip


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