The Old Helio Is Back

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 23 2010

Helio Castroneves' life and career are back on track these days. (Photo courtesy of the Indy Racing League)

Kansas City, Kan. – A year and a couple of days ago, Helio Castroneves’ life – not race driving career, but life – was a horror show.

Pushed to the sides were grand memories of winning Indianapolis 500s, climbing fences and dancing with stars; Castroneves was being marched past cameras in jump suits and shackles and he was facing major prison time on charges of tax evasion.

And the career, it started without him as he missed the first race of the IndyCar Series season to put all effort into rap beating.

Fast forward to now, and Castroneves is back on top. He was exonerated in court, he is a father—his daughter Mikaelia was born on December 28th – Penske has three full time cars he is right in the thick of the IndyCar championship race and he’s philosophical.

“Sometimes you need a little shaking up I would say. I did one of those a lot… you can’t plan in life,” Castroneves said during a rain-delay in testing at Kansas Speedway on Thursday.

Castroneves sits second in the points standings and already has a victory, winning April 11th at Barber Motorsports Park.

“When you get (winning) out of the way you get an incredible amount of confidence out of (the crew),” Castroneves said.

Especially with a crew that Castroneves jokingly referred to as “fruit salad.”

Will Power stepped in for Castroneves during the tax trial, and did so well as a replacement driver that when Penske expanded to three full time teams and added Verizon as a sponsor, Power was tabbed to be that third team’s driver.

To help staff Power’s team, two members each went from Castroneves’ and Ryan Briscoe’s team to Power’s team. Taking their places were crew members from Penske’s defunct American Le Mans Series team.

And given that Power is leading the points—and won the first two races—that fruit salad is tasting pretty good for all three teams.

“Certainly (Power) proved that he was a very good driver… but certainly he’s showing more than what we expected. It’s great to have him pushing us as well,” Castroneves said.

But Kansas Speedway may start somewhat of a changing of the guard in the standings. The first four races of the season were on street and road courses. Kansas is the first of four straight oval races.

“Now it’s time to start fresh again. You’re probably going to see the cars that didn’t do much on the road courses, they might appear on the ovals,” Castroneves said.

“We didn’t have push to pass (last year at Kansas) and we have a little bit of the gurneys on the side plate of the rear wings which was taking a little bit of the downforce out of the car. You guys can’t miss this race. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Mobil One has been a staple on Roger Penske’s open wheel cars for decades, but with Penske’s new deal for 2011 with Shell Pennzoil, the Mobil One decal just above and behind the cockpit on all three Team Penske IRL cars will be gone after 2010.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for a new sponsor. We’ve had Mobil One for so many years and were so glad that we had them for these years. I was very fortunate to win my three Indianapolis 500s with Mobil One. But nothing is forever and Shell decided to step up and join Team Penske. I’m very excited,” Castroneves said.

– Nick Bromberg is a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 23 2010


  • Rod Tanner says:

    I just wish the guy would take some anti-depressants or something to perk him up a bit. He’s like the bipolar opposite of Kimi Raikkonen.

  • katamb says:

    I think we should praise Helio for the amazing accomplishments he’s achieved in his career, especially with all odds against him in the past year, but move on from here. I’m afraid he’ll be the guy who won over the IRS for tax evasion 20 years from now. Let’s just call him the great driver that he is and not continue to bring up bad memories. He’s moved on – the reporters should too.

  • Bruno M says:

    Great to see Helio is bouncing back! I ‘bumped’ into him at Barber Motorsports after the last practice before the 1st Inaugural Grand Prix of Alabama where he went on to break his dry spell. Returning from the driver’s meeting he was in great spirits and generous with the small mob that waited for him outside the Penske area. The website link is to our pic, with Will Power in the background. Good luck to Helio at Indy in May!!