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.
Jun 29, 2015, 5:47 PM EDT
Finishing 13th in her Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Pippa Mann enjoyed the best showing of her IndyCar career in Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
Jun 29, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT
Jack Hawksworth enjoyed one of his better runs of 2015 in Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
Jun 29, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
Although it’s been two days since the MAV TV 500, a number of IndyCar drivers are not going to soon forget one of the wildest races the series has seen in a long time.
Jun 28, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Brazilian driver ends the Formula E season with his best finish of fourth.
Jun 28, 2015, 5:33 PM EDT
Westbrook and Valiante take their second win of the year at Watkins Glen.
Jun 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
The IndyCar driver finished 11th and 12th in two races at the London ePrix this weekend.
Jun 28, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT
Graham Rahal back on Twitter on Sunday after win on Saturday.
Jun 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Brazilian driver remains upbeat despite losing out on the title to bitter rival Nelson Piquet Jr.
Jun 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Brazilian driver talks about his rise from the midfield to the title across the course of the inaugural Formula E season.
Jun 28, 2015, 1:36 PM EDT
Watch a replay of yesterday’s crazy MAVTV 500 from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana either online via NBC Sports Live Extra, or on NBCSN tonight.
Jun 28, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
Can the Lotus driver pick up some points for the third straight weekend at the British Grand Prix?
Jun 28, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT
The first ever Formula E championship goes right down to the wire in London, but it is Piquet who is crowned champion.
Jun 28, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
2013 GP2 Series champion set for practice run-out at Silverstone as part of his reserve role with the team.
Jun 28, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Rossi extends his lead at the top of the MotoGP championship standings with Dutch TT victory.
Jun 28, 2015, 8:03 AM EDT
Wet qualifying shakes up the grid ahead of the season finale on Sunday afternoon in London.
Jun 28, 2015, 12:12 AM EDT
MotorSportsTalk’s Tony DiZinno reflects on one of IndyCar’s most dramatic days in recent memory.
Jun 27, 2015, 10:29 PM EDT
Andretti drives well and ends P3, to make a rare famous last name reunion happen on podium.
Jun 27, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT
It was 150 years ago that author Horace Greeley wrote those famous words, “Go West, Young Man,” and IndyCar driver Sage Karam put that advice to good use in Saturday’s MAV TV 500.
Jun 27, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT
Briscoe and SPM make the best of the situation after late-race IndyCar accident.
Jun 27, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT
With Will Power involved in a late-race wreck in Saturday’s MAV TV 500, Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth to extend his points lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
- Pippa Mann revels in career-best IndyCar finish at Fontana 0
- After tough recent outings, Jack Hawksworth relishes 10th-place showing at Fontana 0
- MAVTV 500: Despite being nerve-racking to crazy, drivers glad safety won out 1
- WATCH: IndyCar’s frantic, thrilling MAVTV 500 to re-air at midnight ET on NBCSN 3
- Nelson Piquet Jr crowned first ever FIA Formula E champion in thrilling London finale 1
- Sarrazin takes surprise pole in wet London ePrix qualifying 3
- DiZinno: IndyCar’s Double-Edged Sword in Fontana 19