Castroneves enters 2023 with sights set on the record books

Tom Brady just announced on Wednesday morning that he’ll call it quits on a storied football career. Helio Castroneves isn’t ready to follow in Brady’s footsteps just yet.

“I don’t like it. Someone told me, comparing me and Tom Brady this year, and unfortunately, last year, too, but I’m telling the story because he didn’t win the Super Bowl. I’m like, whoa, whoa, don’t compare me now. So now we’ve got the Rolex,” Castroneves said on Wednesday morning during Day 2 of INDYCAR content days. “Look, it’s amazing. In any athlete’s — any person that achieve goals, even with the experience that you have you go through some scenarios, and I don’t think he’s hurting right now. I think he’s pretty well.

“That’s the type of scenario — the guy can retire and come back if he wants at any time.

“Unfortunately it’s not like that in our sport. We need a team, we need a car. But yes, he’s incredible.”

Castroneves was also quick to note that he’s not ready to retire just yet himself. He has goals left to accomplish. One of those goals is that 5th Indianapolis 500 win.

The big storyline entering this season has to be Castroneves’ pursuit of that fifth Indianapolis 500 crown. That’s something that has never been done in the past 106 years of this race and he’ll try again to win No. 5. AJ Foyt was the first to accomplish the feat of the four-win club in 1977. He made 15 attempts after to score his fifth win. He’d never do so with only scoring two top fives after including a runner-up finish in 1979.

Al Unser was the next to join the four win club in 1987. He’d try five more times to earn a fifth ‘500 triumph with finishes of 3rd, 24th, 13th, 3rd and 12th respectively.

Rick Mears joined in 1991. A 26th place finish in 1992’s race was his final shot.

Now, Castroneves is in the club. Can he get his fifth crown in May? That’s going to be a huge storyline that month again as he scored a top 10 last May.

“Look, expectation for me, it’s obviously the big one. It’s Indianapolis 500,” Castroneves said on Wednesday morning. “That’s the one that we feel that we have the same car, we have all our bets on to that.

“However, I’m not going to give up on the other ones, either. I feel that we have as much of a chance as anybody in some of the places that I feel comfortable. In position, if you’re thinking about finishing in the top 12 would be a great goal, would be a great place to be.

“However, we want to be able to have a podium. We want to be able to show what we can get, and we can.

“INDYCAR is so competitive. There’s so many scenarios that you’re like, I will never see that. That’s why. We’re going out there thinking that we do have a chance to repeat what we did in 2021, and obviously have a better result in the road courses and street courses, as well.”

Castroneves has 31 wins now which is tied for 10th most. His 50 poles is fourth most, three shy of Foyt. His 41 runner-up’s rank third best. His 94 podiums are four shy of Unser for fifth most.  His 142 top fives are fourth most with seven shy of Foyt for third.

By the end of this season, Castroneves could be alone in with five Indy 500 wins.

So, what did he learn in his first full-season back in the sport a year ago and apply that to closing that gap to the front this time around?

“Yeah, so we have some change of personnel in my group in the 06,” said the Brazilian driver. “We have Dave, our engineer; also we have some data people, as well, in the pit stop. We’re going to have some communication that we’ve got to — that’s why it’s important two days, at least for us, to get everybody going.

“And yeah, it’s important because we’ve already been one year with Meyer Shank Racing, so putting all the pieces and puzzles together, looking forward to a great 2023.

“Everyone understands when you’re going through, even if it’s one year, people think it’s a long time, but hey, we’re talking about teams that’s been together for a long, long time, years of experience and communication and everybody is in sync.

“Even though for us we did 2021, all those people were part-timers and we have to start all over again. That was the first time that we had two cars in the team. There was a lot of dynamic changing.

“Now we are continuing to move forward. It’s important for us to be part of this process, be patient. Yeah, I can’t wait when things start to connect so we can show at the racetrack.

“You’re always looking for improvement. The good news is we finished 18th last year in the championship. That’s not a place that we want to be. However, we feel there was some areas that we felt we could have better results, but racing is unpredictable, as always.

“The expectation is obviously always to do well, but also we understand the possibility of things not going according to the plan.

“But I feel the plan is that. It takes some time to collect some of the informations that we want, our alliances with Andretti Autosport also is still very strong. They also know that they need to improve. It’s not only in our organization.

“We still keep pushing each other so that we can have a better result like we had in the past or that Andretti had in the past.

“For us, remember, the alliance, they have their own engineers, their own resource, they translate it to us, and yeah, we’re looking forward to having a much better season, and let’s hope for the best.

“But we’re only looking forward, and we feel we’re going to have a much better season.”

Castroneves had a pair of top 10 finishes in the opening six races including one at Indy. However, he also had just 2 top 15’s over the final 8 races with a best finish among them of 13th in Nashville. Some were pushing him out the door and back to a part-time role. The new rumblings are Castroneves’ Rolex 24 teammate, Tom Blomqvist, is eying a potential INDYCAR seat and that it could come at Castroneves’ expense in more of a swap between the two.

“First of all, it’s too early to say,” Castroneves said of that discussion. “Second, I don’t want anything more than great things for this team. This team is incredible. They continue to grow as much as — they already stamped that they’re not just a small team. They stamped that they’re an incredible team, that things amazing about to happen in the future.

“Tom, come on, the kid is a superstar. He’s really quick. I feel that he did — he’s doing an amazing job. Last year he did a great job; this year continued doing it.

“Let’s see. Everything happens and falls natural. But as of right now, it’s too early in the season to predict and think what’s going to happen.

“Our goal is to have a phenomenal result with MSR so that we can show what this team is capable.

“Look, I just won Daytona 24-hour. Do you think I’m thinking retiring right now? There is no — there isn’t a thought of that.

“Look, also the same thing it repeats. It has to feel natural. I can’t force myself. I can’t put a number or date that I can say this is it.

“As of right now, I am enjoying very much what I’m doing. I’m about to start a great season with INDYCAR, and my mind is only thinking about that. I’m just going to continue working and get that result that I really want, that I know I’m capable and I know what the team is capable. Whatever happens in the future remains to be seen.”

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