Castroneves quietly puts himself in place to make Indy 500 history

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INDIANAPOLIS – History is made every May at the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, no matter the result. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves hopes once again this year is the chance for him to make major history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Entering his 19th Indianapolis 500, Castroneves is attempting to become only the fourth driver to win four times in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” joining A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and his own spotter, Rick Mears, in one of the most elite clubs in all of sports.

Castroneves has ridden under the radar thus far in his quest this May, especially in comparison to Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden. Castroneves was the only Team Penske driver to not make the Fast Nine Shootout in qualifying last weekend and will start 12th Sunday in the bright yellow No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet.

It’s only the third time in his last 17 Indy 500 attempts that will start outside the first three rows for the race. However, Castroneves doesn’t think his spot on the outside of Row 3 will have any impact on his chances of taking home that prized fourth victory.

Helio Castroneves“I don’t think it’s a big deal, per se. I won here before starting in 11th (in 2001) and 13th (2002),” the 44-year-old Brazilian said. “I had a great race in 2017 starting in 19th (and finishing second to Takuma Sato).

“There are two races this month. There’s qualifying and then there’s the race. Qualifying is over now,” Castroneves added, “so we just need to make the best out of where we are. Twelfth is a good place to start and I like the outside, so I think we’ll be ready to go.”

This is Castroneves’ second year as a part-time NTT IndyCar series driver after he switched to a fulltime ride in Team Penske’s IMSA sports car program in 2018. Like a year ago, he returned to IMS to compete in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the road course – finishing 21st on May 11 – before turning full focus to the Indy 500 bid. With so much past experience on the hallowed oval, he doesn’t feel at a disadvantage to the full-season drivers.

“I feel as strong as ever, even without being a full-time INDYCAR driver,” he said. “The way my teammates have helped develop the car and helped me with things, I think I’m ready.”

Castroneves’ last Indy 500 triumph, a decade ago, came from the pole position. Only two drivers have won the race from his 12th starting position for 2019: Al Unser Jr. in 1992 and Tony Kanaan in 2013.

Castroneves admits to pressure as he continues chasing the elusive fourth win, but he still finds the excitement and support from fans as inspiring.

“I’m ready for it,” he said. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here. The fans have been so great to me and I want to deliver something for them that they will never forget and for them to say, ‘I was here for history.’”

Teammate Newgarden, who will start eighth on Sunday, knows better than to discount Castroneves from being a threat to add his likeness once more on the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“Helio is very capable to win this race. He’s got the best credentials in the field,” Newgarden said. “I want to beat him very badly and I’m sure he wants to beat me very badly as well.”

Coverage of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 begins at 9 a.m. ET Sunday with NBCSN’s prerace show. NBC takes over race coverage beginning at 11 a.m., with NBCSN returning for a postrace show at 4 p.m.

The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts the race beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday on network affiliates, XM 209, SiriusXM 82, WEB 970 and indycarradio.com.

The INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA provided the perfect second-screen race experience with timing and scoring, select in-car cameras and team radio communications.

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