Castroneves, was in town to not only unveil his banner commemorating his record tying 4th Indianapolis 500 victory last May which is now housed above Gate 2 on the south end of the famed race track, but also here to hop back into his No. 06 Dallara-Honda to test on the 2.439-mile road course as well.
Unfortunately, winter like conditions halted those plans to test on Thursday and again on Friday too.
However, the popular Brazilian driver spoke to me from the shadows of Gasoline Alley on a cold, wintery type of day in the circle city on Friday morning.
See, this isn’t the first time that Castroneves has been back to Indianapolis since his win. He was here in August to race on the road course as well as to get honored for that victory on Memorial Day weekend too. He was also here last October to take part in a Firestone tire test. He was then back in November for the ticket unveiling. The thing is though, he’s not been back during the Month of May. It hasn’t been possible.
You can come here any time of the year, but May is different. May is special. May is right in Indianapolis. The sky just has a different hint of blue to it. The sun seems to shine just a little bit brighter. The flowers look a little bit more vibrant. All those are expounded on the west side of Indianapolis for each of those 31 days of the month.
It honestly just seems like this place comes to life differently in May than at any other time during the remaining 11 months during the year.
So, now that it’s officially April, 1 month away from May, and Castroneves is here in Indy, does the thoughts come back to how magical next month is going to be for him to return?
“I started thinking about May last year when we were on the podium,” he told me. “No question. The car that we have is already being prepared and prepped for the Month of May and we are going to be strong.”
When he was here in October, coincidentally enough a Friday too, he was equally as vibrant in speaking of being in Indianapolis.
“It’s awesome. Any time that the yellow shirt people start recognizing you, that’s a good sign,” he told me that day. “You did something right here. It’s great to be back.”
Now that he’s won four, does the drive to win No. 5 burn deeper than any of the previous wins? I mean, winning four is one thing and that’s something he tried 12 years to do. Now, he’s aiming to be the first driver in the 106 year history of this event to etch his face on the famed Borg-Warner Trophy five times.
“Absolutely,” Castroneves told me last Fall on if the fire burns deeper to win No. 5 more so than it did for chasing No. 4. “It’s not because we accomplished something and now we’re going to settle. “I’m still on Cloud 9. To see everyone. I’m excited to be a part of history. For me it’s very special to give a young team this incredible amount of boost to continue going forward. It’s just awesome. I’m back what I was 10 years ago. Muscle maybe not. Body, maybe no. Wrinkles too. At the end of the day, it’s been incredible.”
He doesn’t have 12 years now to pursue a fifth. At 46 now and 47 next month, it’s not like he has another decade of racing ahead of him. The oldest Indy 500 winner is coincidentally enough a four-time champion too in Al Unser Sr. He did so in 1987. His brother, Bobby Unser, was also 47 when he won in 1981. Emerson Fittipaldi was 46 in his 1993 triumph.
So, is Castroneves doesn’t win No. 5 this May, if and when he ever does for 2023 or beyond, he’d also become the oldest winner in Indy 500 history too.
“I just want to keep it rolling as long as I have an opportunity to fight for wins and be competitive,” he said on how much longer he wants to do this. “That’s the fun part for me. Right now, that’s what we’re having. As long as we keep updating ourselves and pushing each other and keep getting those results, I’m going to keep it going. I don’t want to put a date, a number, a year because who knows. Certainly it would be great what Mario (Andretti) did and what the good old guys did, but at the end of the day, time will tell.”
Castroneves is going to be the one to beat that’s for sure. The scary part is, despite having made 21 starts here, he’s still learning the place and a day like Wednesday allows for further notes.
“Every time you come here is new,” said the Brazilian driver. “Doesn’t matter how many laps. Every time you go out there, I still respect this place like the first time. It’s actually incredible. The car is so sensitive. It kind of gives you a great reading out there. Right now, it’s not that easy. It seemed to be working during the race but not by ourselves. We need to make some adjustments. Then you’re like you see the wind and feel the revs and try a little bit a different line whether it’s higher or lower, those sorts of things, I’m so glad I’m here trying those things because it not only helps but it helps me improve on what I need to do. This is very useful.”