It’s the year of the old athlete and Helio Castroneves is happy to be part of it.
The 46-year-old Brazilian, who has lived in South Florida for most of his IndyCar career, joined Meyer Shank Racing last year largely in a mentorship capacity. Meyer Shank had never won an IndyCar Series race, and Castroneves hadn’t been racing full-time on the series since 2017. Even his deal was only to run six races in the 2021 IndyCar Series.
Castroneves, though, knew he still could win and he wanted to. He also joined MSR, which had a major sponsorship agreement with Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation, because he saw the potential of a still-growing organization to put him in position to win a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500. In his first race, it all came together and Castroneves won his first Indy 500 since 2009.
“I love to prove people wrong,” Castroneves said at a victory celebration at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. “You don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes, you don’t know how much sweat you’re putting into it and when you have a great team, a great group of guys around you and a driver that believes they can make it happen, they can make it happen.”
Castroneves isn’t ready to settle for just four, though. Castroneves is set to run four more races in the 2021 season and he wants to be back for the 2022 IndyCar Series, too.
“Who says 47 is a bad age?” Castroneves said. “I think Mario Andretti was racing until he was 53, so age is just a number.”
In May, Castroneves edged Alex Palou by 0.4928 seconds at the 2021 Indianapolis 500 to become the first non-American to win the sport’s highest-profile race four times. The win also set a record for most time between a driver’s first and last Indy 500 wins after Castroneves won the 2001 Indianapolis 500 as a 26-year-old rookie.
Next year, he’ll almost certainly have an opportunity to break his own record and go for an unprecedented fifth win in Speedway, Indiana. MSR owner Mike Shank said Castroneves “deserves to go four a fifth” and “we will do that.”
“Maybe even more,” he told NBCSN after the race last month. “Who knows?”
Said Castroneves: “As long as you have the fire, as long as I put that in my work, there is no limit.”
Castroneves brought the Borg-Warner Trophy to the Broward Center on Wednesday to celebrate with AutoNation, the sponsor on his No. 06 Honda. His next stop will be a trip to Brazil to bring the trophy to his home country for the first time.
While Castroneves has pushed to race a more full schedule after his win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, MSR is holding to its original six-race plan, which means Castroneves won’t race again on the series until August.
Almost four years have passed since Castroneves’ last win before his victory at IMS. Now he’s once again the sport’s ultimate champion, and he doesn’t feel any need to slow down.
“If you just take care of yourself in a good way, you can prolong that,” Castroneves said. “You have more knowledge. You’ve been in critical situations, so to succeed is probably going to be positive that it’s going to happen. That’s why I’m so glad that this young team, that didn’t have even a win, believed in me and we were able to put it together.”