Castroneves Will Go For No. 4 With Meyer Shank Racing

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 11 2020

Helio Castroneves will get another shot at winning a fourth Indy 500 next season. (File photo courtesy the IndyCar Series)

Meyer Shank Racing will raise the profile of its INDYCAR brand in 2021 via a limited program featuring one of open-wheel racing’s most popular drivers.

Helio Castroneves’ relentless pursuit of a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 victory is the centerpiece of a six-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule the 45-year-old native Brazilian will run for team co-owners Jim Meyer and Michael Shank. Castroneves’ open-ended deal with MSR was announced Tuesday in Indianapolis.

“For me, from how much I dreamed about the 500 and just the thought that we could have Helio or be a part of what Helio does to get a fourth (win) just puts me over the moon,” Shank said during a ZOOM conference with national media. “I know it does with Jim, too, and it means a lot. What’s that mean? It means I’m throwing everything we can at his car. There will be no budget. It needs what it needs to be the fastest machine we can make for him. Specifically, for that race we’re going to do lots of work to make sure that car is as good as anything out there.”

Castroneves will campaign the No. 6 MSR Honda alongside Englishman Jack Harvey, who will contest the full 17-race schedule in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda. Meyer Shank Racing will continue to operate with technical assistance from Andretti Autosport in 2021.

The 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 30 around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Castroneves won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2001, 2002 and 2009 during his 20-year tenure with Team Penske.

Castroneves’ six-race 2021 schedule includes the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.; Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach; the Indianapolis 500; Indianapolis Motor Speedway GP2 road-course; the Grand Prix of Portland (Ore.) and the season-ender at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Curiously, the schedule does not include the back-to-back events on Texas Motor Speedway’s high-banked/1.5-mile oval set for May 1-2. That doubleheader in Fort Worth is the series’ only oval-track activity prior to Indy 500 practice.

“It’s tough to parachute into these races, right, really tough, and that’s been seen a lot last year,” said Shank, referring to the impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “But we’re going to test Helio. He’s going to get some opportunity to run a little bit before we race, and there’s no reason we can’t finish in the top-five in any of the races we do _ none of them _ zero. We look forward to trying to get that. I just feel lucky that we got him.”

Castroneves’ three INDYCAR starts in 2020 included an 11th-place/lead-lap Indy 500 finish in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. Harvey ran ninth for MSR en route to an overall 15th-place point finish in his first full INDYCAR season.

“I’m back, man. I’m so, so excited. This is incredible,” said Castroneves, whose open-wheel resume features 30 victories and 50 poles. “I’m looking forward to working with this group, looking forward to the races. I know it’s only six races; however, one of them is extremely important for me, which is the Indy 500, and I can’t wait to be in the race car right now.”

A four-time NTT IndyCar Series point runnerup, Castroneves last ran a full schedule for Roger Penske in 2017. Helio’s most recent second-place overall finish was in 2014.

“Look, no question, with Team Penske it’s 20 years we are talking about,” Castroneves said. “They are part of my family. They were part of my life basically, my career, my life. Right now, again, as you’re still saying, Roger and I are partners in dealerships and he is the guy that I’ll always ask for guidance. But now there is an opportunity here to make new friends, to build something different.

“As you heard Mike saying, everything we’re going to try to do here is to have a phenomenal result, and especially in the Indy 500. When you see that, come on, what more can you ask for?”

MSR’s expanded program was unveiled one month after the team confirmed its partnership with Liberty Media Corporation as a minority investor in the team, attributed to the Formula One Group.

MSR and Harvey first paired for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 and built a six-race program for 2018, growing to a 10-event 2019 campaign before making a full-season run in 2020. That same approach will be utilized with Castroneves.

“The idea to start off with six races for the second Indy car was another strategic plan,” Shank said. “As I’ve always said in the past, we will never bite off more than we can chew. It’s always been one of our goals to expand the INDYCAR program, and this is the best way that we can start that. Of course the goal is to have two full-season cars. Helio and I have an agreement to keep working on it and do the best we can, and we’ll see where this thing goes with us in the future.

“We want to build it. If Helio is the guy _ we both agree, Helio and us agree _ we’ll go forward with Helio if he wants to. We’ve all been in this a long time, and I want to see how this year goes. It takes a little bit to get the gel to happen. But you know what I like about this is I’ve got…when you decide are you going to do a young or new guy or are you going to do a veteran guy, I just like hungry guys. I like hungry. I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care how old. Do the job. I’ve got a hungry guy that I know can do the job and wants to get a fourth Indy 500. So what’s the choice? He’s sitting there on the TV with us. So I’m really pleased to have him.”

Castroneves has previous experience with the team, having raced for MSR’s sports car program in the 2007 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The move also sees Castroneves return to Honda power, having previously won 12 races in a Honda-powered Indy car.

Meyer, the CEO of SiriusXM, joined Shank as team co-owner in April 2017, doubling down on his passion not only for motorsports but also the Indianapolis 500. Shank, who began racing professionally in 1989, logged an INDYCAR start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1997 and the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1999 before retiring to focus on team ownership.

“I think there’s so many reasons why Helio is the right guy for us, but I will lead with the passion,” Shank said. “I think the passion Helio has is as strong as any 20-year-old out there right now. I think the knowledge he has is times four of anybody out there. And I have to be honest with you, we have metrics that we look at from all the drivers that Bob Perona, our driver coach, has put together. And when we look at Helio’s numbers from 2016 and 2017, he’s in the top four of all categories when the switch happened over at Team Penske (to Prototype sports cars) for him.

“We’re not part of that at all, but what I’m saying is we saw a guy that was still driving at a level that can compete with anybody. Lastly, what can Helio bring to help Jack Harvey? We’ve built our program around Jack and we’re ready to expand it now, and we believe and we hope that Helio is the right guy for us.”

Harvey, a 27-year-old native of Bassingham, England, scored his first series podium in 2019 and added two front row starts during a 14-race 2020 campaign impacted by the pandemic.

“I’m really excited to build on the progress that we made this year and bring that into 2021,” said Harvey, the Indy Lights point-runnerup in 2014 and 2015. “We’ve had so much potential, but had such bad luck in so many of the races this year that I’m just excited to start fresh. I’m confident that next year we can push for some podiums and race wins based off of the pace that we had this year.

“Having Helio, he will be a fantastic addition to the team. He’s a three-time Indy 500 winner and he’s a living legend really, so it’s pretty great that I will get to work with him and be teammates with someone who has that level of experience. I see this as a way to strengthen the team.”

In addition, MSR recently broke ground on a 45,000-square-foot facility in Pataskala, Ohio. The 2021 season also will also see MSR continue its relationship with Acura and Honda Performance Development to field the Acura ARX-05 DPi in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.

Castroneves will make his final IMSA start for Team Penske in Saturday’s 68th edition of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The race on Sebring International Raceway’s 3.74-mile/17-turn circuit is scheduled to start at 10:10 a.m. (EST). Qualifying is ser for Friday.

Acura Team Penske is the defending IMSA champion, and Castroneves and teammate Ricky Taylor are leading the DPi class as Penske ends its relationship with HPD. In 2008, Team Penske became the first racing organization to win the Daytona 500 and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the same year.

Well, you know, I have to say, I have to thank obviously Team Penske to put me in the sports car program because I feel that it was a great experience, and I feel much better as a driver today than actually I was three years ago,” Castroneves said. “But you know, even though I was in the sports car program, INDYCAR has always been part of my life. I enjoy it very much. I love the sport. I grew up in open-wheel. Basically, as soon as the Acura program was terminated, I said, you know what, let’s go back. Let’s go back because I feel that I have unfinished business in the INDYCAR world. And here we go.

“And again, it’s coming back to the Indy 500, which obviously everybody knows we’re really searching for that (win) No. 4. Couldn’t do it anymore with Team Penske; it could be awesome to do it with Mike and Jim and everyone at Shank Racing. We have a great opportunity here. I don’t see anything to stop us from having great results and winning races. Everyone is really excited, and we’ve got to carry this momentum, and just, you know, translate that to the race cars.

“And Jack, as well, he has been there. He has already been with the team. It would be great to have this synergy together so that we can work together so that not only one car but both cars will be up there. Again, it’s limited races, yes, but it’s a great opportunity, and one that I’m really looking forward to.”


Final 2020 NTT IndyCar Series point standings _ 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 537; 2, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 521; 3, Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport, 421; 4, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 416; 5, Will Power, Team Penske, 396; 6, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 377; 7, Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 348; 8, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 339; 9, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 317; 10, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 315.



Saturday, June 6 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 4 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course 1 (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 11 _ Road America Race 1, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 12 _ Road America Race 2, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Friday, July 17 _Iowa Speedway Race 1, Newton (Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske)

Saturday, July 18 _ Iowa Speedway Race 2, Newton (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Aug. 23 _ Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing)

Saturday, Aug. 29 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 1, Madison, Ill. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, Aug. 30 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 2, Madison, Ill. (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Saturday, Sept. 12 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 1, Lexington, Ohio (Will Power, Team Penske)

Sunday, Sept. 13 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 2, Lexington, Ohio (Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport)

Friday, Oct. 2 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 1 (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Saturday, Oct. 3 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 2 (Will Power, Team Penske)

Sunday, Oct. 25 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 11 2020
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