Helio: “I look at this as a brand-new race”

With the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 looming, three-time champion Helio Castroneves has the mindset to forget about making history and focus on this race as he would any other.

“In my mind, I look at this as a brand-new race,” Castroneves said at a recent promotional appearance for Jiffy Lube. “We’re starting all over again. Just because we won three times, it won’t be easy, and it won’t be the same as the times before. Every year, it changes.”

Only three drivers have ever won the Indy 500 four times. A.J. Foyt won the race three times in the ’60s and again in 1977. Al Unser won three times in the ’70s and also finished first in 1987. Rick Mears was the most recent driver to win a fourth, in 1991.

The last time Catroneves lifted the Borg-Warner trophy was in 2009. He started his IndyCar career in 2001, won the Indy 500 as a rookie, and went on to repeat as champion in 2002. Winning number four would put him in truly rarefied company.

“It would be a perfect storm,” Castroneves said. “The number is special, as it is the 100th Running and Team Penske’s 50th anniversary.”

Castroneves heads into the 500 after a second-place finish behind Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday. He led seven laps after starting 13th. The strong finish could be huge for him as he looks for his fourth Indy 500 win.

“Every time you have a good result and carry the momentum for the month of May, it always helps,” Castroneves said. “It is not only good for the driver, but good for the team as well. Everyone is pumped and sees their hard work rewarded.”

Castroneves’s focus lately hasn’t been entirely on racing, though. A few weeks ago, he and fellow IndyCar drivers Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden competed in American Ninja Warrior, when the grueling television was taped on Monument Circle in Indianapolis. The episode is set to air on June 13.

Despite his noted success on another television competition, Dancing with the Stars, American Ninja Warrior presented a whole new challenge for Castroneves.

“Those guys that do that are incredible, because that is brutal,” Castroneves said. “I did not expect it to be that hard during my training. Unfortunately, it was during the middle of the season, so for me to give 100 percent, I could have injured myself. It was surprising and hard, because you throw yourself in the air and hopefully something good happens.”


Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.