Castroneves Discusses Indy 500 Experiences

May 20, 2008

 INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - During preparation for his first Indy 500 in 2001, Helio Castroneves was exhausted. He had just come back from a race in Japan, the weather in Indianapolis was perfect, and Team Penske was making use of every available minute of track time.
“Both Gil (de Ferran) and I were really tired of being in a race car,” Castroneves says with a smile, recalling the lighter moments with his former teammate. “We’d been flying back and forth between Indy and Nazareth and Japan, and then we’d test for hours and hours at Indy. We were both exhausted, so we started coming up with little tricks to get more time to rest.
“It got to the point where I would do anything to get out of work, and then Gil would try to top it. One day I just sat there in the pits and didn’t go. The guys said, ’What are you waiting for?’ I said, ’I don’t have any tear-offs for my visor.’ It’s a perfect day. I don’t need tear-offs. I can go out there without them. It was pretty silly, but it worked.
“When Gil heard about that, he was like, ‘Oh, come on!’ So then, on the next pit stop, just to make him laugh, I told the team they needed to change first gear. I just needed a nap. That’s probably the most fun I ever had at Indy, that first year when Gil and I were completely exhausted and doing anything we could do to stall so we could rest.”
Now, as he approaches his eighth Indy 500, Castroneves still has fun with it. Lately he’s taken to teasing his teammate, Ryan Briscoe. “It’s still fun for me, and Ryan and I are a great combination,” Castroneves said. “He’s a great guy, very funny and very fast. To have someone like that helps to push both of us.”
Rest won’t be a problem for Castroneves in the 92nd Indy 500. More than 30 hours of track time were lost to rain, leaving Castroneves and his new teammate plenty of bonding time. During one of the rain delays, they watched highlights of the 1995 Indy 500, in which Scott Goodyear passed the pace car while leading on a late restart, giving the win to Jacques Villeneuve.
“It’s amazing how this race always seems to come down to the last 20 laps,” Castroneves said. “Goodyear had it, then Villeneuve had it. It always comes down to that last pit stop.”
As Castroneves provided the running commentary throughout the broadcast, Briscoe and other team members laughed at each punch line -- but also listened intently, garnering knowledge from the guy who not only has won the race twice, but also has two pole positions at Indy and has finished second and third.
“I just try to keep it fun for people,” Castroneves says. “Sometimes we all get too serious about what we’re doing. True, racing is a serious business, but it’s also the entertainment business. Shouldn’t we be entertaining? Shouldn‘t everyone be happy to be doing this?”