Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will campaign Meyer Shank Racing-Honda’s new part-time ride in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season.
MSR, which in the last off-season switched its technical alliance from what was previously known as Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to Andretti Autosport, became a full-time IndyCar team for the first time this year, running one car driven by team incumbent Jack Harvey.
This was the fourth step of MSR’s gradually increasing presence in the series, which started with just the Indy 500 in 2017, six races in 2018 and 10 races in 2019.
For the past two years, however, Shank has been stating that he intends to eventually run two full-time cars, but that he and Meyer would take the same methodical approach to the second entry as they had with the first by starting with a part-time deal.
Last month, Shank told Motorsport.com he was in a quandary over who should get that second ride, wondering aloud whether it should be a promising youngster or an established ace. Now we have learned that MSR has gone for the latter, signing Castroneves, who has 351 Indy car starts to his credit, resulting in 30 wins (including three Indy 500s) and 51 pole positions.
Castroneves has become available for 2021 because this weekend’s 12 Hours of Sebring – which could see he and co-driver Ricky Taylor clinch the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – will mark the Brazilian legend’s final race for Team Penske after 21 years. Penske is, for now, pulling out of IMSA after three years campaigning a pair of Acura ARX-05s, which next year will be entered by Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing.
It’s understood that Castroneves’ deal with MSR is for six IndyCar races – namely, Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park, the Indy 500, the new-for-2021 second race on the IMS road course in August, Portland and Laguna Seca.
It is not yet clear if this agreement could also lead MSR to hiring Castroneves for IMSA’s endurance races next year. So far, the Ohio-based team has announced only Olivier Pla as a full-timer, although Dane Cameron is expected to be confirmed shortly.
As has become tradition, A.J. Allmendinger will join the team for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona – Allmendinger was part of MSR’s winning line-up in 2012 – but the identity of an extra driver for the Sebring 12 Hours, Six Hours of Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans is not yet known. Both Scott Dixon and Colton Herta have been mentioned in connection with this opportunity, but MSR may instead consider it useful to ‘plug in’ Castroneves, given his three seasons of familiarity with the ARX-05, and the compressed nature of the off-season.
Castroneves and Meyer Shank Racing could emerge from Saturday’s Sebring 12 Hours as champions, since MSR’s Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry head the GT Daytona-class drivers’ standings, their #86 Acura NSX tops the teams’ standings and Acura is second in the GTD manufacturers’ points.
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