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EXCLUSIVE: Helio Castroneves is confidence incarnate.
The four-time Indy 500 champion knows that he has the stuff to make it five.
Unlike a baseball pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter, avoiding conversation with even his teammates lest he jinx it, the Brazilian is happy to discuss his opportunity to become the all-time greatest champion of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
“It’s reality, right?”
Helio Castroneves won the 2021 Indy 500 for Meyer Shank Racing. (Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“I do believe people want to see history in the making.”
With essentially the same cars and regulations as last year, Castroneves is feeling good about his chances, not only to get his fifth win, but back-to-back victories at the track.
“The last guy that did that was actually me,” he notes with a grin, having won his first two Indy 500s in 2001 and 2002.
He’s one of just five drivers who’ve done that, and is looking to complete the double-double this year.
Castroneves won his first Indy 500 in 2001. (Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images)
Weather always plays a role, of course, and that’s something he learned during qualifying, when rain and heat threw a few curveballs his way and he ended up in 27th place on the grid.
He’s sure things will be better on race day, and with 500 miles in front of him he is not too worried about his starting position.
Castroneves led the final two laps of the 2021 Indy 500. (Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“I didn’t lead a lot of laps [last year] because I felt what you need to do, you need to lead the right lap,” he said.
It was his first race with Meyer Shank Racing, for which he only ran six races during the 2021 season, but is with full time this year.
“I feel not only in much better shape, but much more in sync with the entire group,” he said.
“We already have a lot of races under our belt, we understand what we need to do.”
A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves are the only four-time winners of the Indy 500. (IndyCar)
Helio and the other four-time winners, A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser, were able to get together last year before Unser passed away in December, and he said talking with “the gods of racing” is helping drive him this year.
“Hearing them say, yep, I can do it, records are made to be broken, it just motivates you even more to go out there and focus on the fight for the win.”
At 47, Castroneves is the same age Mears and Unser were when they won their final Indy 500s. He loves coming to town even more than he did for that rookie win in 2001, reveling in the heritage of it and the traditions of the racing families who return year after year.
“It became part of my life and that’s what it means to me,” he said.
“I don’t know any other place to spend the month of May other than the Indianapolis 500.”