MADISON, Illinois — There was no chance Meyer Shank Racing would risk four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves to make history with any other team.
Restricting this possibility, the team announced a one-year contract extension Friday, which will bring back Castroneves for a 26th full IndyCar season. Castroneves won his fourth Indy 500 in 2021 driving a part-time schedule for MSR as Castroneves was desperate to avoid being forced into retirement.
Michael Shank believed in the popular Brazilian and last year’s Indy win led to a full season in MSR’s expanded two-car organization. Castroneves, 47, insists he has plenty of petrol in the tank.
“I don’t want anyone else to win a fifth Indy 500,” Shank told The Associated Press. “He’s very emotional, he goes down swinging. I think he’d like to do at least one more (full) year and then maybe just try Indy? And then do a few other things too. He wants to stick with it, he wants to use what he’s good at and we support him 100%.”
It was hardly the breakout season that Shank was expecting when the Castroneves program expanded into a full season and Simon Pagenaud became available at the same time Jack Harvey, the team’s first driver, was leaving to join Rahal Letterman Lanigan.
Castroneves is 18th overall, has led just one round all year and finished seventh in Indy; Pagenaud is 12th overall and finished eighth in Indy, and Shank believes he will have a strong finish to his first season with MSR.
they run Saturday night at the World Wide Technology Raceway Gateway outside of St. Louis, where Castroneves has an impressive record. In six career starts spanning both CART and IndyCar, Castroneves has claimed one win and has never finished lower than ninth. In three IndyCar races, his average result is 2.3.
It has raised hopes of strong results from MSR on Saturday night at the final oval of this year’s IndyCar calendar. Castroneves has not driven Gateway since 2017.
He’s admittedly had a hard time adjusting to the cockpit-protecting aeroscreen — added by IndyCar when Castroneves competed full-time in sportscars after his nearly two decades with Team Penske — and his results this season have been mixed. Shank plans personnel changes in the Castroneves team.
“I didn’t expect how difficult it was. We’re making some changes internally to ensure we keep improving over the last three races,” said Castroneves. “This aeroscreen literally threw a curveball to find a sweet spot and it took longer than I expected to adjust and understand what the car needs. But we are pushing. I have a feeling we could be better.
“But remember, it’s the first full-time season I’m in. Certainly we are preparing for bigger things in the future.”
Shank isn’t too bothered by the results as Castroneves add value to team sponsors. The charismatic Brazilian is an entertainer – he won his season of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ in 2007 – and is a hit at partner events.
“Let’s put the Indy 500 aside for a minute, the relationship he’s had with our sponsors and our partners is like next level (stuff) that I’ve never seen before,” Shank told AP. “He’s so good with people. Everyone wants him at their events, dinners, meet and greets, he’s just exceptional. And we have to deliver what our sponsors want.”
Castroneves has no idea how long he intends to race, but he knows he has no intention of slowing down. In addition to his renewal at MSR, Castroneves is campaigning for a seat at the Daytona 500 with Trackhouse Racing and its Project91 program. Trackhouse is looking to bring international drivers from other formulas to NASCAR and is debuting 2007 Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen in Project91 this weekend.
Trackhouse team owner Justin Marks said talks with Castroneves are on hold pending the team’s debut with Raikkonen. But Castroneves wants to be at the Daytona 500 and whatever else he can fit into his schedule; He also competed in Tony Stewart’s All-Star series for the second year running this summer and his win in the opener sparked talks at Daytona.
“You can’t quantify it. I have the potential, the dedication and I know I can get the results and I have the team and the people behind me,” Castroneves said of how long he plans to keep racing. “The reason I still choose to do it is because I believe in all of those aspects. I will keep going until I have the result.
“Obviously you get to a point that you have to recognize and right now I don’t feel that in my gut. I have the feeling that I still have a lot in the tank. The number is just an age.”
Helio Castroneves re-signs with Meyer Shank Racing in IndyCar for the 2023 season originally appeared on NBCSports.com