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20th of February 2018

Automotive



IndyCar: Without Hélio, Team Penske moves on

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For the first time since the 1999 CART season, Team Penske is preparing for an IndyCar season without Hélio Castroneves.

The popular three-time Indianapolis 500 winner will be back during the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he competes in the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Castroneves’ new job is driver for one of Team Penske’s beautiful new Acuras in IMSA Sports Car racing.

At least one of the three Team Penske Verizon IndyCar Series drivers admitted they miss the popular Brazilian driver at the track.

“Yeah, we miss him,” said 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud. “We miss Hélio. He's the joy of our lives. I'm glad I still have him in sports cars. I get to hang out with him and find out what life is about.

“He's a cool guy. I love Hélio. He's been a great teammate, obviously a legend. Knowing him more and more, it really is awesome to have him back in Indy. It's going to be an interesting month. We should pull some pranks on him, I think.”

In many ways, Castroneves’ personality was the glue that held the team together in the heat of battle. Teammates at Team Penske are allowed to race each other hard, but when an incident happens, such as Josef Newgarden knocking Pagenaud out of the way to win at Gateway Motorsports Park last August, that can create some tension.

Castroneves was always the driver to come into the driver meetings and lighten the mood, getting everybody laughing again.

Castroneves will be back at another IndyCar Series race this season, but not in the race car. He was named the grand marshal for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11.

Helio Castroneves having to learn new style in rookie IMSA Protoype season

“I think it's great,” said 2017 IndyCar Series champion Newgarden. “Hélio, what a fantastic guy. To have him at St. Pete, we're going to get to spend some time with him, the fans will get to spend some time with him. This is a win-win situation for everybody.

“I'm excited. I think we're all excited to see him. I think he's going to wave that green flag beautifully. So check it out, St. Pete, March 11th.”

Power, the 2014 IndyCar champion, was a little quirkier in his response regarding Castroneves.

“He’s special to the place and the series, I guess,” Power said. “Yeah, it's good. It's great. I don't know what to say. Yeah, really a good thing for him and for us. Wave that green flag. What else is there to say?”

Because Castroneves is now in IMSA, Team Penske has reduced from four cars to three. That has meant a reorganization in crews. For the first time since he joined the team in 2009, Power will have team owner Roger Penske calling his race strategy, as team manager Jon Bouslog moves over on the timing stand. Bouslog will be on the radio on the days when Penske is not at the track.

“It’s been a very swift transition on both teams, having the experience with them both, it's the strength of Team Penske, being able to evolve and go without a hurdle to anyone, any of the three teams here,” Pagenaud said. “So far, so good. I think it's a little easier personally, because we have a little less information, so we can actually go to the point quicker. Personally, I feel like it's not as easy to get lost, so it's good.”

Finally, Pagenaud was asked if he noticed any difference in Newgarden now that he’s won a championship. He gave a Castroneves-esque response.

“No, he's Captain America, that's it,” Pagenaud said.

By Bruce Martin

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