Mar 13, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Is it possible to be the runner-up finisher in the championship, yet be somewhat overshadowed entering the dawn of the new year?
For Team Penske’s stalwart and longtime flagship driver, Helio Castroneves, it is… kind of. Because the words “Castroneves” and “overshadowed” should rarely, if ever, be used in the same sentence to describe the ebullient Brazilian, who’s one of the faces of IndyCar.
But as it is, Penske made the signing splash to kick off IndyCar’s silly season with the recruiting of Juan Pablo Montoya to the team in September, back from NASCAR, to drive a third car. Montoya’s frequent preseason testing in his re-acclimation back to open-wheel racing has been a key headline.
Then Will Power finished 2013 on a tear, winning three of the final five races, and has participated in many of Penske and IndyCar’s offseason projects. Power, whose dry humor is finally being recognized at large, has starred in Team Penske’s “The Penske File” series of videos, and also done some work for IndyCar’s social media this winter. With his primary sponsor Verizon, there’s a lot of activation to be done with the Australian.
Castroneves has been featured this offseason as well. He’s 38 entering the year and into his 15th full-time season with Penske since joining in 2000.
Some of the familiar story lines and same goals exist entering 2014, as he has had each year for the past five.
Win that elusive fourth Indianapolis 500. And win that elusive first series championship.
“Yesterday’s news,” Castroneves joked, acutely, during IndyCar media day in Orlando.
“(For the title) I have the right line with God, to be honest, and with the Pope, too, especially with John Paul,” he said. “He said, ‘When the time comes.’”
And the time nearly came in 2013, in a season that saw Castroneves nearly reach the peak of the summit after one of the best seasons of his career.
Castroneves scored a win at Texas and was the model of consistency, with top-10 finishes in all but one of the first 16 races. He had finished every lap through that point, too.
Of course, the Houston double-header weekend was a painful one. Despite his and the team’s efforts, they came up short two weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
But Castroneves is bullish about 2014. In short, his old sparring partner from the CART days has amplified the determination within the Team Penske operation. The level of respect is mutual between Castroneves and JPM, and his new presence should push the team forward.
“I feel we’re in a different phase of our lives, there is a lot going around, and we’ve accomplished a lot in our career,” Castroneves said. “I guess you can call that mature.
“Honestly, it’s amazing to have him in our side. He’s been an incredible addition, and I mean that. He’s definitely going to be a tough competitor.
“Most of what I noticed, which I knew he would be quick adapting on the car, but most of it’s the information that he brought, that I was very surprised and happy about. Certainly it’s going to make our cars better.”
Castroneves and Montoya are also two of the “name” drivers in the series, whose presence extends beyond the borders of the I-465 corridor (bubble) that IndyCar sometimes finds itself in.
They’re in the older guard, but they’re both iconic in American open-wheel history. Castroneves relishes the role he’ll need to play from that standpoint this year, as fellow veteran Dario Franchitti was forced to retire in the offseason due to injury.
“Dario, for me, I can’t say for others, but for me he was certainly an amazing competitor, an amazing driver first of all,” Castroneves said. “Second, my competitors, they make me better. Not having Dario, for sure I’m not going to be as good as I was before.”
Internally, the bonding appears to be there. Castroneves said he, Montoya and Power have all worked well throughout testing and are starting to develop that key word in racing: chemistry.
“What I’m actually happy about so far, is we seem to be speaking in the same way, which is one way: win for Roger. We want to win this title as bad as anybody else,” he said.
And about that title. It’s been since 2006, when Sam Hornish Jr. captured the crown, that Team Penske has won the IndyCar Series championship.
Montoya’s 1999 CART title achieved with Chip Ganassi Racing is the only combined one in the bank for the three of them.
But the odds of a Penske title are better with the third full-time car added. Castroneves certainly has the desire and the determination to go one better in 2014 – perhaps on the strength of better qualifying efforts and converting a few of those 2013 top-10s into 2014 top-fives.
Say this much, though. You’ll hear plenty from Castroneves throughout the year, and likely, he’ll be working tirelessly to be at the head of the Penske queue in 2014.
Jul 29, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
IndyCar penalizes Honda for five engines that did not “attain their life cycle.”
Jul 29, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT
Rahal is second in the points and takes his career best season to his home track of Mid-Ohio.
Jul 29, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT
Johnson will make his first start of 2015 this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Jul 29, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
Simon Pagenaud looking for first top-fin finish since Detroit race one.
Jul 29, 2015, 12:02 PM EDT
In eight IndyCar races at Mid-Ohio, Scott Dixon has a record five wins.
Jul 29, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
There’s still a good seven to 10 high-quality drivers without a win in IndyCar, 2015, who could add to the list of winners.
Marcos Ambrose looks to salvage lost season in V8 Supercars, has had no issues ‘moving on’ from NASCAR
Jul 28, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT
Even though it has been pretty much of a lost season for him in Australia’s V8 Supercars series, Marcos Ambrose believes he can still find some success before the racing year is over.
‘Race With Restraint’ proves grassroots racers want, will use more safety equipment at affordable rate
Jul 28, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT
The first attempt at bringing top-of-the-line safety equipment to the grassroots racing masses was an unqualified success.
Jul 28, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT
Hector Arana Jr. hopes 2015 is about time to finally be his time.
Jul 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Fast facts heading into this weekend’s Honda Indy 200, courtesy of IndyCar PR staff.
Jul 28, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT
To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the demise of NHRA’s Pro Stock class have been greatly exaggerated.
Jul 28, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT
Simon Pagenaud swaps firesuit for street clothes when driving the Penske Truck Rental truck, playing “mover” this weekend.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:38 AM EDT
The latest car for Austin Cindric is a Lamborghini at Mid-Ohio this weekend.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:23 AM EDT
Zanardi still wants to race the Indy 500, if possible.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT
Singapore Grand Prix circuit to adjust Turns 11 to 13.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Sherwin-Williams joins the Hulman Motorsports family as Official Paint and Finishing Partner.
Jul 28, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT
We check in with NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for latest “Ten with Townsend” insights, post the Iowa race and heading into Mid-Ohio.
Jul 27, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT
Good news, Ricciardo made the podium. Bad news, his trophy didn’t survive it.
Jul 27, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
Jakes kept his visor down after all on a pit stop in Iowa.
Jul 27, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT
A quick look back at Chaves’ short track debut.
- It’s “never-say-die” for Graham Rahal with three races left 0
- Paralyzed driver Michael Johnson returning to track in Pro Mazda 0
- Simon Pagenaud ‘agonizingly close’ to wins at Mid-Ohio, not to success in 2015 0
- With three races left, who could still win in IndyCar, season 2015? 1
- Marcos Ambrose looks to salvage lost season in V8 Supercars, has had no issues ‘moving on’ from NASCAR 6
- NHRA: Big changes coming to Pro Stock this weekend, next season 20
- Report: Alex Zanardi keen to make Indianapolis 500 debut 7