More than a month before the Indianapolis 500 this year, Helio Castroneves stood on Turn 2 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and rested his hands on his head, watching in agony on the now-defunct track as he completed his fourth Indian victory. 500 had broken his record. 2021. Hundreds of hours passed this perfect journey. But a sealant problem on the way out of the Castroneves pit (and two other Indy 500 victories) sent the wall into a test day on a test day and sent the team back to area one leading the world’s biggest motor race.
Castroneves’s Meyer Shank Racing team, in which the 22-year-old open-air veteran first participated last year, rebuilt the car until it was “perfect” for the start of last week’s 500 practice.
Two attempts after the race, Castroneves felt perfectly distant, turned his back on the sidewalk but completed his four-legged attempt with the risk of rain.
“There is a line between courage and stupidity and we are really playing with it,” he told NBC Sports.
The Brazilian, who turned 47 on May 10, is struggling to become the first five-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and the first consecutive winner since, well, he did it in 2001 and 2002. To do so, he will have to make his way from the 27th place in IndyCar history to one of the fastest, most competitive – including last year 500 competitors, Alex Palou, who lost the competition did but went to the championship of the series, one. the only achievements that Castroneves did not achieve.
This year, the 25-year-old will start the 106th Indianapolis 500 from the first half of the row. The Spaniard, who never landed on the ovals until he starred in the IndyCar series in 2020, has one option to win Sunday’s competition; it is among the most durable cars since the practice began on May 17th. He also sits second in the series championship.
But IMS does not matter how old you are, or how experienced you are.
“At the end of the day,” Castroneves said, “this place, Indianapolis, will choose who will be the winner.”
Palou’s first Indy 500 ended in an accident in 2020 after 121 laps. But last year, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, he entered the top nine races that would compete in shooting for the class. Fearing that his time would not be enough, he forced his team members to allow him to leave for the second round. They got together – and he had an accident.
“I felt very bad about beating the team,” he said. “Not so much for demolition, but it was more like pushing the boundaries and for those conditions there was not enough pulling power.… I knew it was my best ride – the best front wing, the best back wing “Underground, all the best, and you hit it. And so, oh no, I’m done.”
But his team repaired the main line, Palou remained in the top nine and started from the sixth, second row on the starting lineup. Castroneves, who has won the 500 class four times, started eighth. On the day of the race, 405 miles, the two remained close to the front, with the remaining 38 laps capturing the top two points, with cats and mice leading the way, and after stopping again ahead, Palou takes the lead. Castroneves with five laps to go.
“I never thought I would be in the leading position of the Indy 500 in the back laps,” said Palou, who ran 35 laps and crossed the five-peak range. “There is always competition, it is so exciting in the last 30 races that there are usually two or three drivers who are just fighting back and forth and you never know who will win.
“And there is always one [driver] he was thinking ahead and who was not he, who he was me, but it was weird to be in that position, hey he was 10 laps away and he’s just Helio and you. And so it was, oh wow. I felt really good. It was something I had never done before, it was my first time leading an oval race – the biggest race – but it was good. He felt special.
With two peaks, Castroneves made his move outside to the front, and made it to the turn of Turn 1.
“I do not think so [Alex’s] age or experience, ”Castroneves said. I focus on the right foot. I used my experience for this. I read the script correctly. And he reciprocated.
“I don’t think [Alex] something went wrong. … I knew how strong he was, he was definitely stronger than me in terms of competitive leadership. And so I couldn’t just play around because it would bring more people to us. … I also lost a few competitors in those terms and conditions, with experience. So it’s not just about experience; That’s what the car can do and drive. “
A few days after the race, Palou tried to talk to the newly recognized 500 champion.
“I was saying, were you waiting? [to make the pass]? ” Palou said. “And he just said, ‘You’ll never know.’ That’s the best answer he could come up with.
“He did not get it by chance, which I think would have done more damage if he had won another first time. If you lose against Helio, I say, sorry, as he is 20 years more experienced than me. That fact must be taken into account. “
Twelve years after Indy’s victory for the third time, Castroneves crossed the finish line, got out of the car, climbed into a circle with his team, screamed and ran backwards to the front in celebration of the age-old victory.
“First [Indy 500 win] never forget, “he said.” I was so eager to win my first oval race that I said, wait a minute. This is where my name changed.
“Second, not many people could [win multiple 500s] over a hundred years, and wow, I can not believe I could have agreed to that. And thirdly, I did not know I was going to be competing, and suddenly I went to visit the winning circle. (In 2009, Castroneves was temporarily replaced on Team Penske by Australia’s Will Power in anticipation of the outcome of a tax case in which he was acquitted.) It took a long time for us to finalize the latter. start, this is when people start to think, it will not happen. And maybe this added more fuel to my fire to prove them wrong. “And the belief that we all on the team believed we had to do it, and I feel even stronger as I move forward.”
With his 2021 victory, Castroneves joined AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears was the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. Castroneves was able to sit down with the four-hour club for a special broadcast eight weeks after his victory; in December, Unser died (Unser brother Bobby, a three-time Indy 500 winner, died in May 2021).
“To be able to experiment [it with him]it was one of my new favorites [instructors, along with Johnny Rutherford]Castroneves said. “I will definitely have those precious moments that we have always had in my mind and heart.”
Did he think about what a fifth victory would mean?
“I always dream,” he said. “I can definitely promise, I will fight for it. I have young men, I have a car, we just have to put ourselves in a situation where we can be there. [at the end].
There are two other participants with 500 victories: Takuma Sato of Japan (45 years old, winner of the 2017 and 2020 competitions), and Juan Pablo Montoya (46 years old) of Colombia, who won in 2000 and 2015. The five active drivers each have a success. . Is there another four-time victory on the horizon?
“One day it will happen again,” Castroneves said. “This new generation has the potential to achieve what we have achieved four times.”
Minutes after he watched Castroneves cross the brick courtyard in front of him last year, Palou met with the media, smiling hopelessly.
“[Helio] there were three [wins]. Why did he want four – could not give me one? he joked. “I just wanted one.
“But good. We will be back next year.”