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Castroneves is holding court at Sushi on the Rocks, a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis two nights before his pole run. He's telling the story to several friends of how he won over Adriana. "We were at a party," he says, "and I say, 'Baby, baby, baby, if you don't kiss me now, you'll never find anyone better.'"
Adriana nearly spits out her sparkling water. "Oh, please," she says. "You had to beg me for years."
"O.K., the woman is always right," Castroneves says. "But I got you now."
Adriana sat in the courtroom through nearly every day of the trial—during the early sessions when celebrity witnesses such as Johnson and team owner Roger Penske drew crowds and paparazzi, and during the weeks of grinding testimony about tax law and accounting practice, when jurors nodded off—and more than anyone, she has seen how the ordeal changed Castroneves. "Part of Helio died, but a new part came alive," she says. "He won't be as trusting, but nothing will ever worry him as much anymore."
Castroneves has changed as a driver as well. He has always been ultrasmooth and precise behind the wheel, and still is, but since his return to racing he has been noticeably more aggressive, as if trying to make up for lost time on every lap. "Helio is more determined to win now because of what he's gone through," says Penske. "I'm actually a little worried that he's going to try too hard to win the 500, because that can cause problems."
"I've never been more committed to winning anything in my life than this year's 500," says Castroneves, leaning in close as the hubbub at the table continues around him. "If that means taking a chance, I'll do it. I'll be smart about it, but I promise you I'll do it."
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