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Castroneves Set To Climb Into Texas Hall of Fame

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 25 2018

Helio Castroneves is headed to the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame.(Photo courtesy of the IndyCar Series)

FORT WORTH, Texas – His open-wheel fence-climbing days at Texas Motor Speedway complete, Helio Castroneves will step into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame next month.

Castroneves will become the 21st member of the TMHOF during induction ceremonies at The Speedway Club’s Grand Ballroom on Saturday, Nov. 3. The winningest INDYCAR driver in TMS history, Castroneves will join retired NASCAR Cup Series star/20th inductee Carl Edwards during the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Playoff tripleheader weekend.

The event will mark the TMHOF’s first dual induction since native Texan Bobby Labonte, the 2000 Cup champion from Corpus Christi, and Speedway Motorsports Inc., founder O. Bruton Smith were recognized in 2008. It also will be the Hall’s sixth dual induction overall.

“For me as a kid, all I wanted to do is drive,” said Castroneves, longest-tenured driver in Team Penske’s storied 52-year motorsports history. “I’ve been fortunate to achieve a lot of my personal goals with Team Penske over the years. Having the opportunity to be with an incredible organization and Roger Penske, it means more than anything people can understand.”

Castroneves, whose INDYCAR tenure with Team Penske ended after the 2017 season, owns TMS records for most wins (4), top-10s (15), top-fives (11) and laps-led (506) over the course of a record 20 career starts.  Each of those victories was punctuated by his trademark front stretch fence-climb, a tradition that began after his first Indy car win at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit in 2000 and prompted his “Spider Man” nickname. Castroneves also recorded one pole position around TMS’ 1.5-mile oval.

Two years after a dramatic finish in the Chevy 500k in September 2002 as runnerup to Sam Hornish Jr. of Panther Racing by 0.0096-seconds _ the second-closest finish in TMS history _ Castroneves found his way into TMS’ Victory Lane in October 2004. Starting on pole, Castroneves led 104 laps and survived a late race charge from fellow-Brazilian Tony Kanaan of Andretti Green Racing to win the Chevy 500k.

Castroneves became a multiple winner at “The Great American Speedway” with a victory over Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the Bombardier Learjet 500k in June 2006. Castroneves joined Hornish as TMS’ only three-time winners with a victory over Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe in the Bombardier Learjet 550k June night race in 2009. Castroneves was crowned as INDYCAR’s winningest driver at TMS in June 2013. Helio dominated the Firestone 550 that summer night, leading 132 laps and finishing nearly five seconds ahead of runnerup Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport.

Castroneves finished fourth in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, marking the 14th time in his career that he placed inside the top-five in the season-ending rankings. Over the course of his 20-year INDYCAR career, Castroneves recorded 30 wins and 50 pole positions, including one win and three poles in 2017.

Castroneves moved to Penske’s sports car organization for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship after 18 successful  open-wheel seasons, driving an Acura ARX-05 Prototype with Ricky Taylor. While committed to sports car racing, Castroneves will renew his quest for a record-tying fourth Indy 500 win in next May’s 103rd edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” with Team Penske at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Considered one of the all-time greats in INDYCAR history, Castroneves has earned more wins than any driver in the history of Penske’s championship open-wheel racing program. His three victories in the Indianapolis 500 include back-to-back wins in his first two starts in 2001 and 2002. He last won on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval in 2009 and has come remarkably close to earning that record-tying fourth Indy 500 victory, finishing second twice over the last five seasons.

Castroneves, 43, is a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Away from the track, Castroneves’ emergence as a mainstream personality began via his “Dancing With the Stars” victory in 2007, as well as various non-racing network guest host TV appearances.

Edwards shocked NASCAR Nation when he unexpectedly announced his retirement from big-time stock car racing in January 2017. But the man who punctuated each of his six victories at TMS with a back flip off the door of his race car is preparing to return to the site of the final victory of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

Edwards wasted little time finding his way to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway, winning the Dickies 500 in just his second career Cup start in November 2005. Three years later, he became the first driver to sweep both Cup races in the same weekend at TMS, taking April’s Samsung 500 and November’s Dickies 500. And on Nov. 6, 2016 _ exactly 11 years after his first victory at TMS _ Edwards scored what turned out to be the final win of his Cup career in the rain-shortened AAA Texas 500.

Edwards also was a two-time winner at TMS in the Xfinity Series, claiming the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge in November 2010 and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 in April 2011.

Edwards, who rose to prominence driving Fords for Jack Roush at Roush Fenway Racing, exited the sport and the No. 19 Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards announced his retirement from NASCAR on Jan. 9, 2017 in order to pursue “other opportunities.” During his retirement news conference two days later, Edwards said, “I don’t have a life raft I’m jumping onto; I’m just jumping. And in a way, that makes it easier. This is a pure, simple, personal decision.” Prior to becoming a full-time driver, Edwards worked as a substitute teacher.

A 39-year-old native of Columbia, Mo., Edwards made 24 Cup starts at TMS from 2005 to 2016 and led 691 total laps. Edwards made 14 Xfinity starts from 2005 to 2011 and led 396 laps. In the Truck Series, he started five races between 2002 and 2004 without a win but with 56 laps-led.

Ironically, Edwards will share the dais with Coach Gibbs, who will receive the Bruton Smith Legend Award for his leadership as a championship-winning team-owner. With more than 300 combined wins in the Cup and Xfinity series, Gibbs has solidified himself as one of NASCAR’s most successful owners.

Gibbs also is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having won three Super Bowls as head coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Joe Gibbs Racing has won four Cup Series championships, five championships in the Xfinity Series and has been extremely successful at Texas Motor Speedway, earning seven total wins with four different drivers, including victories in three of the last five races.

Gibbs also is author of the New York Times best-selling book “Game Plan For Life,” which is the name of his corresponding ministry.

Harvick will be honored with the 2017 Racer of the Year Award after a pair of strong finishes in April and a drought-ending victory in the fall Cup race. One day after placing third in the My Bariatrics 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Harvick led 77 laps and finished fourth in the spring O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Cup race in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion.

Last November, Harvick returned to Fort Worth on a postseason mission. With only a road-course win on his 2017 resume through 33 races, Harvick punched his ticket into the Championship 4 when he overtook Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing with 10 laps to go and pulled away for the first Cup Series victory of his career in 30 starts in Fort Worth.

Bell could be on his way to a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in 2018. But it was the compassion he showed en route to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2017 that earned the native of Oklahoma City, Okla., the TMS Sportsmanship Award.

Bell termed it “a dream come true” when he finally won at TMS, his adopted home track, in June 2017. But when Bell rolled into Victory Lane his initial thoughts were not about raising the trophy but the status of Timothy Peters, Austin Wayne Self and Johnny Sauter after that trio was involved in a violent white-flag wreck that forced the race to finish under caution.

First off, I want to make sure everyone is OK,” Bell said. “It’s kind of a sorrow(ful) victory. That was a pretty bad flip and I’ve taken my fair share of flips and it hurts a lot worse whenever it’s in the grass like that one was, so I hope he’s (Peters) OK. That’s the most important part.

The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame ceremony, traditionally held during Texas Motor Speedway’s spring NASCAR weekend, will revert to that time frame in 2019.

The November NASCAR Playoffs weekend features the Camping World Truck Series JAG Metals 350 on Friday, Nov. 2; Xfinity Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Saturday, Nov. 3 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 4.

The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame ceremony serves as a major fundraiser for Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter. Tickets are priced at $75 and include a gourmet Texas barbecue.

For more information or to purchase tickets to the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Luncheon, please call Speedway Children’s Charities at (817) 215-8421 or visit www.scctexas.org. For more race information or to purchase tickets to the AAA Texas 500 weekend, visit www.texasmotorspeedway.com or call the TMS ticket office at (817) 215-8500.

(Editor’s note: RacinToday.com senior writer John Sturbin was inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame as a journalist.)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 25 2018
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