Of the cast of characters who have performed under the big top of Texas Motor Speedway the past 20 years, perhaps none has been more colorful and authentic than the personality of Helio Castroneves.
He’s talkative, engaging, witty and competitively driven.
He is a promoter’s dream.
“There’s no Victory Lane more fun than a Helio Victory Lane because he’s genuinely excited,” said Eddie Gossage, president of TMS. “He has just so much personality, he’s interested in so many things. That just makes him a marketable guy, but it’s one thing to be marketable, it’s another thing to be able to back it up.
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“He does that. He might be one of my favorites of all time.”
... It’s one thing to be marketable, it’s another thing to be able to back it up.
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, on Indy-car star Helio Castroneves
The general public is more acquainted with the Brazilian from his time as a performer on Dancing with the Stars, but Castroneves, of course, had been a star in his profession long before earning the 2007 dancing crown while decked out in the glamorous costume styles of network TV.
Twenty-nine career victories, including three Indianapolis 500 championships, would — or should — do that.
No driver in the IndyCar Series has more victories at TMS than Castroneves, who has won four times in the last 12 years, all under Team Penske.
He was the loser in the closest finish at TMS, falling to Sam Hornish Jr. by 0.0096 of a second in 2002.
“Thanks for reminding me,” the 40-year-old quipped during TMS Media Day on Wednesday at Gilley’s Dallas.
The son of Sao Paulo will be back in North Texas seeking his fifth title in the Firestone 600 on June 11. He opened the season with a fourth-place finish in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Roger Penske says he would like to provide an Indianapolis 500 entry to you after you retire from full-time racing. Do you have a timetable for retiring? Are you retiring me already? It’s an honor to hear that from Roger, but I don’t have a timetable. I feel at the end of every year, I can’t wait for the next season to start. You want to keep going and make yourself better.
What is your stance on proposed cockpit enclosures, such as a canopy, to protect drivers? We need to do something, whether it’s enclose or a halo, we need to do something to protect. What happened to Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson and the others in Formula One … all these scenarios you don’t want to see again. You don’t want to put something there just to put it there; the consequence could be even worse.
Will Power was sidelined by the concussion protocol, but was later found to have not suffered a concussion. Do they need to consider modifying the protocol to guard against misdiagnoses that cost drivers valuable series points? He had an ear infection. He was feeling dizzy and throwing up. The symptoms he was having indicated a concussion. It was the right decision. What happens if it was the opposite: You thought it was an ear infection and it was a concussion? Will can recover from not racing. It would be difficult if he hurt himself.
Simon Pagenaud … he’s super nice. The only thing that doesn’t match is that he’s French.
Helio Castrovenes, on one of his “United Nations” teammates with Team Penske
This is Roger Penske’s 50th year in motorsports. It must be a special time for Team Penske. Without the leadership of Roger Penske, it’s very difficult to do the things we do. Not only is he an incredible businessman, but he goes to every race with the same passion that he probably had when he started. That translates into the race team.
Team Penske is loaded again. Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and you. So that’s Colombia, Australia, France and Brazil. Those have got to be a lot of personalities in those team meetings? We call it the United Nations of race teams. A lot of personalities. Simon Pagenaud … he’s super nice. The only thing that doesn’t match is that he’s French. He’s very nice, and it does not match.