IndyCar Series: (1998-Present)
• Victories: 31. Poles: 50.
• Four-time Indy 500 winner (2001, 2002, 2009, 2021)
• One of motorsports’ most engaging personalities
• Known as “Spider-Man” for fence-climbing victory celebrations
• Won 2007 Dancing with the Stars competition
Other Motorsports Series:
• 2020 IMSA WeatherTech Champion
• Won the 2021 and 2022 Rolex 24 at DAYTONA
The Brazilian has one of the greatest records in Indianapolis 500 history, winning the race four times (2001, 2002, 2009 and 2021), pole four times (2003, 2007, 2009, 2010) and finishing second three times (2003, 2014, and 2017). He is one of 10 drivers to score three or more victories, one of five to score back-to-back triumphs, and one of two — the other, Al Unser — with a three-year run of two wins and a second. He also is one of only four drivers to win four Indy 500s; the others are inductees A. J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser. Castroneves was also the first foreign-born driver to win three 500s. Although Castroneves has never won the series championship, he was almost always in the hunt, finishing second four times and third three times. As of 2022, he was tied with Paul Tracy and inductee Dario Franchitti for 10th on the all-time IndyCar victory list with 31, ahead of inductees Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford and Roger Ward. Also immensely popular, earning the nickname “Spider-Man” for his signature fence-climbs and gaining broad national attention after winning the 2007 edition of Dancing with the Stars.
By Gordon Kirby
Helio Castroneves scored a superb fourth Indy 500 victory in 2021, beating Alex Palou after an electrifying duel over the 500’s closing laps. In the end, Castroneves crossed the line half a second ahead of Palou. It was the fastest Indy 500 ever run, taking 2 hours 37 minutes 19.38 seconds for an average speed of 190.690 mph.
“For me,” Helio says, “it was just an incredible feeling to win number four. A lot of people had question marks. I get it, but I never stopped believing.”
Castroneves won his first three 500s with Team Penske in 2001, ’02 and ’09 but the 46-year-old Brazilian was cast aside by Penske at the end of 2020. He found a ride with Mike Shank and Jim Meyer’s emerging team, signing with Meyer Shank for six races, including the 500. Castroneves took the lead for a handful of laps just before the 200-mile mark and went on to lead 20 laps on the way to his fourth win. Helio took his place in the Indy 500’s pantheon with three other four-time winners—all of them fellow inductees.
“It was a great moment,” Helio grins. “It’s amazing to follow in this group with Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, and my hero Rick Mears. I’m super honored to be in this group, but more important is I love to be surrounded by great people. It was great to be with Penske, and now with my new friends Mike Shank and Jim Meyer, I’m really having a great time. They gave me a new opportunity with their amazing team and look at what they’re showing.”
Helio said he approached this year’s 500 very differently than in his early years at the Speedway.
“When I won my first 500, I did not know what to expect,” he recalls. “As a young guy, I just wanted to go for it. This time was completely different. It was about working on the car and understanding what I needed to win the race.”
Castroneves spent most of the past three years driving one of Team Penske’s Acura DPi cars in IMSA, winning the championship in 2020. He says his time in IMSA was valuable.
“When I moved to the sports car program, my knowledge of racing just expanded. When you start racing with three different types of classes in the same race with different speed, you start learning how important timing is. You learn how to calculate moving and passing without damaging the car. I have to say that experience was great.”
Castroneves, who has signed to drive full-time for Meyer Shank Racing in 2022 and already captured his second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona, is enthusiastic about his team owner.
“Mike is a guy who’s passionate about racing,” Helio remarks. “That’s what I love. I love it because I’m that type of guy. Sitting down to have a dinner, we’re going to be talking about racing and having a long night. But at the end of the day, when I put my helmet on and when he puts his headset on, he’s all business. He makes the right decisions. That’s what I’m impressed by. You don’t need to change who you are to be successful.”
Kirby is one of the world’s most accomplished racing writers. He’s covered more than 1,000 races and written 17 racing books. “Chris Pook’s History of the Long Beach GP” was published in 2020. “Boost! Roger Bailey’s Extraordinarily Diverse Motor Racing Career” will be published in May 2022.