Helio Castroneves, who won his first Indy car race on Belle Isle in 2001, now races sports cars for Acura Team Penske.
By his high standards, Brazilian driver Helio Castroneves had a rotten day at the 103rd Indianapolis 500 last Sunday at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Team Penske ace finished 18th in the race in his No. 3 Chevrolet after smacking into the back of the Honda of James Davison during an early pit stop and being hit with a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact that dropped him out of the top 10 to back of the pack. Castroneves, 44, said that Davison was going about 30 mph down pit road where the speed limit was 60 mph before Castroneves hit him.
Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 champion, is on-track again Friday in practice for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit.
The former “Dancing with the Stars” winner will be at the wheel of the No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi car. Castroneves is running his second full season in sports cars after 20 years full time in open wheel.
“I’m switching hats from the Indy 500 last week,” said Castroneves. “I love driving anything at Belle Isle for The Captain. It’s a hard track on the car and the driver.”
Castroneves has won three times in an IndyCar at Belle Isle — in 2000, 2001 and again in 2014. The WeatherTech Series supports the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear NTT IndyCar doubleheader in Detroit this weekend.
“Coming back to Detroit is always good,” said Castroneves, who finished second at Belle Isle last year with co-driver Ricky Taylor for Penske. The race was won by Action Express with the Cadillac DPi.
“We had a phenomenal car,” added Castroneves. “It was just a little bit behind the Cadillac. Hopefully, this year things will be different.”
The Chevrolet Sports Car Classic will be held on Saturday on Belle Isle at 12:30 p.m.
Castroneves knows Cadillac will be toughest to beat again.
“The biggest strength of Cadillac is their ability to get power down on the race track,” said Castroneves. “Belle Isle is bumpy and slippery. They do well at that.’
Castroneves has lost none of the passion for racing he has shown fans around the world for over two decades.
“It’s why I race,” said Castroneves. “I wear my heart on my sleeve.”
His penalty at Indy last weekend did stir up emotions, said Castroneves.
“Davison was super slow on bit lane — maybe 30 miles per hour slower than the legal speed,” said Castroneves. “I thought he was having issue. He then turned in late into his pit box. It hit him. It destroyed my race. Man, we had a good car.”
Will he be back at Indy to fight for a fourth win in 2020.
“Please give Roger a call for me,” said Castroneves, grinning. “I want badly to be there.”
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