AUSTIN, TX – Helio Castroneves was back in his No. 3 Chevrolet with Team Penske on Tuesday. The Brazilian driver is testing with the organization at the 3.41-mile Circuit of The Americas road course in Texas. While Castroneves, 43, won’t be competing in the NTT IndyCar Series race on the track in March, he is on hand to give the team as much valuable data as he can.
See, after a 20 year Indy Car career, Castroneves was offered a ride in Penske’s new IMSA program for 2018. A shot at a coveted Indy Car championship was gone. Still, the fire to win a record tying fourth Indianapolis 500 was there. While he wanted a championship, he also wanted the fourth ‘500 victory just as much. Whom in the paddock would give him the best opportunity to win again at Indy?
No one other than Penske would.
So, Castroneves obliged to step out of his full time IndyCar gig to help Penske start up an IMSA program and only come back to the IndyCar side during the Month of May. That’s why he cherishes days like today and Wednesday.
IndyCar is Castroneves’ first love and to do anything he can to help the team find speed, he’ll gladly do it – even if that means being a “mule.”
The 30 win driver in the series has never been to this track before. Most of his teammates haven’t either. So, to have as many hands on deck to try to collect the most data is crucial.
“It was great,” Castroneves said after turning 56 laps in the two test sessions on Tuesday. “I have to be honest, a bit of a quick reaction first time out there, especially in the place I have no idea. First time I’m driving. Kind of like it was very rush.
“But towards the end of the day, it was a little bit better. Still getting the timing right. Great to be back in IndyCar. Great to feel the horsepower, the quickness of the car, as well. It’s just like you feel the wind on the visor because normally you have the windshield, a year running with the sports car. Quite a lot of fun.
“Hopefully I can help my guys, my teammates here, testing some things that they might not think it’s necessary. Somebody always got to take the short stick, and I think I will be the one.
“Right now it’s getting everyone, especially myself, but also the team (prepared for the season). The team is incredible. We have some guys from the sports car program straight into IndyCar. They’re ready to go. We just want to make sure that everyone is in sync.
“Plus, if I can obviously add, as I said, Simon (Pagenaud) referred to me as a mule, if I can try something that nobody want to do it, why not? Every time you have more data live, it’s always beneficial to the team.”
That’s the definition of a team player. He knows he’s not racing other than the IndyCar Grand Prix or the Indianapolis 500 this year. But, he’s after helping the team find speed and test out things that the full time drivers maybe wouldn’t to see if maybe a new setup would work.