2016 Season Review - Helio Castroneves

November 18, 2016

For Helio Castroneves, the waiting is the hardest part.

After a season in which he was extremely competitive – he finished third in the final 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series standings – Castroneves can’t wait until the first green flag of the 2017 season.

“I was so glad that we had a test last month in Phoenix,” said Castroneves. “I ran more than a race there because I knew it would be my last chance to be in the car until at least January when we test again. It is very frustrating to wait this long. You can do go-karts and sports cars and simulators, but whatever you do is slightly different than actually driving an Indy car. It’s the same for everyone, but it’s difficult for me to wait.”

As he prepares for his 20th IndyCar season, Castroneves looks back on 2016 for motivation. He didn’t win a race – it marked just the fifth time in his career that he went an entire season without a victory – but his remarkable consistency kept him in the championship hunt yet again until the end of the year. Castroneves recorded four podium finishes, including runner-up efforts in the Indianapolis Grand Prix and Toronto, and won pole positions at Phoenix and Long Beach in the No. 3 Hitachi/AAA/Shell-Pennzoil/REV Group Chevrolet.

“The disappointment is obviously not winning a race,” said the three-time Indy 500 winner for Team Penske. “It was out of our control, but it was upsetting for me. Taking that out of the way, to be honest, it was a very positive season for results in terms of being competitive and in terms of speed. We were right up there in every race. Yes, I wanted to win, but for me I would not trade in performance for a win. That’s what was important. We were able to contend for a championship without a win because of performance. We were fast and consistent throughout the season.”

In 16 races, the 41-year-old Brazilian finished outside the top 10 only six times. He also finished inside the top five in half of his races, offering further incentive to return strong in 2017.

“It was the type of year that motivates me to come back for next year,” explained Castroneves. “I have the potential to win the championship in 2017. This year was different than a year in which you don’t have a chance to win the championship and you have to turn the page and start all over. “This season motivated me to continue it into next season. That goes for everyone on the No. 3 crew. We know we can win the championship. We’ve just got to put it together. Hopefully that will happen.”

His biggest disappointment in 2016 was the Indianapolis 500. After looking like the strongest car in the field for much of the historic 100th running of the legendary race, Castroneves was forced to bring the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Dallara/Chevy to the pits after he was struck from behind late. The resulting 11th-place finish was just the fourth time in 16 years that Castroneves finished outside the top 10 in the Indy 500.

“Indy is the biggest race for us throughout the season,” said Castroneves. “The situation at the end of the race – having a problem like that – completely destroyed our chances to battle for the win. I’m not saying we would’ve won the race had that not happened, but we at least would’ve been able to battle for the win. It’s part of the game. There were a lot of very fast cars that also weren’t in position to battle for the win at the end because of the circumstances, but that’s part of what makes Indy so exciting. I couldn’t believe what happened. It was the first time in more than a decade that we finished outside the top 10. That was also frustrating.”

As he approaches his milestone anniversary season, Castroneves continues to chase the championship that has eluded him. His career statistics are remarkable – 29 victories, 90 podiums and 47 poles – providing further motivation.

“I decided to turn what could be seen as a negative into a positive,” he said. “It gave me a feeling that I need to return and finish the job and follow in the same direction. Hopefully we’ll be able to execute next year.”