Helio Castroneves Makes History with Fourth Indianapolis 500 Triumph
Hélio Castroneves, 46, joined Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser in the four-time Indianapolis 500 winners club after outdueling Alex Palou on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Unlike his first three victories, which came in 2001-02 and ’09 with Team Penske, the iconic fourth came with Meyer Shank Racing. After spending the past three seasons with Penske’s full-time Acura IMSA program with one-offs at Indianapolis, Castroneves joined Michael Shank and Jim Meyer for a part-time effort.
He immediately delivered.
“I can’t thank the entire organization (enough),” Castroneves said. “Power by Honda—I needed it most and they were right there. I love Indianapolis. The fans, they give me energy. This is absolutely incredible.”
At 46 years and 20 days old, Castroneves is the fourth oldest winner in race history behind Unser (47, 1987), Bobby Unser (47, ’81) and Emerson Fittipaldi (46, ’93).
Not that Castroneves drove like it.
The four-time championship runner-up was frequently praised for his approach during the race. Even as Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou retook the lead on numerous occasions, Castroneves remained locked-on with the No. 10.
Palou led on Lap 199 but Castroneves made a gutsy pass on the outside entering Turn 1 and used lapped traffic to pin Palou behind him.
“I knew I had to fight, put the elbows out,” Castroneves said. “Man, I only did two races this year and I won two. You think I still got it? It’s not the end of it. It’s the beginning. The old guys are still kicking the young guys’ butts.”
That other win came in the Rolex 24 with Wayne Taylor Racing in the No. 10 Acura SRX-05 DPi.
Castroneves celebrated in familiar, and in the fashion of a distant memory, by climbing the frontstretch fence at IMS. The fans serenaded them with chants of “Helio! Helio! Helio! Helio! Helio!”
Palou finished second, followed by Simon Pagenaud, Pato O’Ward, Ed Carpenter, Santino Ferrucci, Sage Karam, Rinus VeeKay, Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan—an eclectic mix of veterans and the new guard.
The race was only stopped twice for incidents.
The only major incident came on Lap 119 when Graham Rahal pitted from the lead, with multiple fuel strategies playing itself out, with the No. 15 team leaving a left rear tire loose. The tire came off on pit exit and sent Rahal into the outside Turn 2 SAFER Barrier.
Conor Daly struck the errant tire and it left a dent in the No. 47 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet’s front nose cone.
“It’s famous last words, but we had them,” Rahal said after leaving infield care. “We had them. We were in the perfect spot. We were just cruising. Our strategy was playing right. I was doing a good job in the car. We had them today.
“This one is hard to accept. I’m proud of the United Rentals guys. We worked hard all day. I’m sorry we didn’t win this thing because we should have.”
Scott Dixon led the race from pole but relinquished the top spot after three laps when Colton Herta took the position.
Dixon entered into a fuel conservation strategy that actually worked against him when the caution waved on Lap 33. Herta and Rinus Veekay had pitted and Dixon ran out of fuel while waiting for pit road to open.
The caution was for Stefan Wilson, who had spun into the wall on pit entry, and by time Dixon made it down a cleaned-up pit road, he lost a lap attempting to get the car to re-fire. Alexander Rossi befell the same fate but never got his lap back.
Dixon did regain a lap but finished 17th.
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