While the accomplishments of his recent racing resurgence were listed during the press conference after the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Helio Castroneves turned to team co-owner Michael Shank and exclaimed:
“Mike! Let’s go to Le Mans! Let’s go!”
Might as well. After all, sports cars have been the crucial link in Castroneves’ late-career renaissance. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a logical next step for the guy who has won almost everything else.
“I love to race,” Castroneves said after he co-piloted the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 to the overall and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) wins in the 60th anniversary running of the Rolex 24. “This is me. It’s been my entire life. I admire (and) respect (it).
“I know it’s not easy. I understand everyone has your specialty. And that’s why, when I moved to IMSA, I believed I started getting better because you start exploring more of your race craft. Today, the big win was because of that. I knew my competitors. I knew what I needed to do, and I did it.”
Doing it wasn’t always so certain. In 2018, as Castroneves’ full-time IndyCar role with Team Penske transitioned to a part-time effort, he joined Penske’s Acura-powered IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship operation. When that program ended in 2020, Castroneves found himself a free agent. He faced a choice: fade into racing history with three Indianapolis 500 victories or fight for more.
He chose to fight.
Castroneves signed with Wayne Taylor Racing as the team’s fourth driver for the 2021 Rolex 24 (won it), signed a six-race IndyCar deal with Meyer Shank Racing and returned last May to the Indy 500 (won it a record-tying fourth time), then returned this past weekend with MSR for the 60th Rolex 24 (won it again) with teammates Oliver Jarvis, Tom Blomqvist and Simon Pagenaud.
Quite the year. Seems that climbing fences never gets old, especially when you’re 46 years old.
“I’m not running out of time, I’m just getting more experience,” Castroneves said. “And experience in this type of race is the key to being successful.”
Castroneves will return to the No. 60 Acura next month for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as the Meyer Shank team’s driver for IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events.
He’ll also take a shot at a fifth Indy 500 win during a full IndyCar Series season with MSR, fully aware that sports cars were the bridge to continuity and longevity. Thankful for the opportunity, unencumbered by age, ready for more.
When Castroneves asked Shank about Le Mans, Pagenaud offered to help.
“I speak French!” Pagenaud, the native of Montmorillon, France, deadpanned.
Never say jamais. With Helio, nothing is impossible.
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