CHEVROLET - Helio Castroneves Media Day





THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2018



HELIO CASTRONEVES:  I see the fans, a lot of people excited to have the number four.  I'll do everything I can to make people's wishes come true, including mine. 

Q.        Last year you ran really well.  We all hated to see what happened when you went over to the sports car program.  In some ways do you feel more refreshed coming into May?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  No question, going into a new program, you see your hard work, not only myself, I'm talking about the Acura Team Penske, the entire organization, putting a lot of effort into the program.  We captured 1 and 2 in Mid-Ohio.  This is phenomenal. 

It does refresh you.  It does give you the opportunity to explore more things.  On the other side, coming back, you feel like there's so much I could learn in those three other races before jumping into Indianapolis. 

The good news is I have a phenomenal group of guys.  They're able to give me information.  Now you just got to get it on. 

Q.        What would it mean for you to capture number four in this fashion?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  It would be incredible.  So many people are supporting different drivers, wear different T-shirts.  All of a sudden they are screaming, I want you to win the number four, it would be so cool.  You can see people want to be part of history. 

I'm very blessed to be in this opportunity.  Hopefully, as I say, their wish is my wish.  It would be a dream come true. 

Q.        How difficult is this in a one-off situation?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  It's extremely hard.  The car definitely has little different tweaks, I would say.  Try to fix one thing, you create another problem.  Fix the other problem, now you create a different one.  I see everyone having the same kind of scenario. 

In terms of difficulty, the good news is I've been in this IndyCar business for so long that tires, the car, even the seat is the same.  It's kind of like I don't feel much of that.  But when you're jumping in a new car, it would be awesome to be part of the testing program, that you can really spend time trying to understand. 

At this point nothing you can do.  Just got to drive, go for it. 

Q.        (No microphone.)

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Listen, I've been driving IndyCar for so many years, it's kind of like part of my DNA.  Sometimes you just got to see so you can continue pursuing your dream, which is driving for a long time.  When there is an opportunity like Roger offered me there, was no doubt that I would be able to keep pursuing that dream. 

On top of that, having an opportunity to drive the Indy 500, it could not be better.  It will be great.  Give Roger and the No. 7 team, hopefully give the fans number four, too. 

Q.        (Question about number four.) 

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Roger is all about incentives.  The last time we did that, we ended up accomplishing a lot of things.  Hopefully that will be the goal. 

Obviously I feel that incentive, it's already automatic.  Whatever happens, winning the race, a lot of good things will happen to the entire team.  It certainly gives you the confidence to go out there and push it to the limit. 

Q.        How hard was last year?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Every time I see Takuma Sato, man.  He did a phenomenal job.  He drove very hard.  He pushed it.  The only Japanese to capture an Indy 500. 

We just showed even with not the fastest car, we're still able to fight.  That's credit for the entire organization.  Just need to do the same thing what I did.  We know we have not an issue with the engine.  Did a phenomenal job pre-season.  Now we just got to go out there, make it happen. 

Q.        How difficult was it to make the transition from sports cars?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Definitely there is some little details, simple details.  The steering wheel, it's one way, and now you come back to a different one.  You can see I'm pushing the wrong button.  Along the way, you just got to get used to it.  At this point I feel that I'm very comfortable in the car. 

Q.        Is the transition difficult from a mental standpoint?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Sports car is very fast, especially braking, very, very fast.  Very similar to the IndyCar.  To be honest, when I heard the drivers saying, Man, the car is super fast, I was already, Maybe the expectation is more. 

When I jump in, it was like, Where was that part that it was super fast?  Still different to drive, but it's not like the reaction I was expecting.  That was good news. 

Q.        Are you happy with the decision or would you rather be in IndyCar?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Let's put it this way.  Some people, when they have a change after so many years doing one thing, you have a lot of, Am I doing the right thing?  What is the scenario here?  Am I still capable to win more races in IndyCar? 

But when you come, Roger says, I really want you to drive the sports car. 

I said, I have a lot of fuel to burn in IndyCar. 

Well, let's put that fuel burning in sports cars. 

When you see the person, especially Roger who gave you all the opportunities in the world, you know when he's making a right decision.  I'm glad he did it.  I'm glad I did it.  I'm excited.  It's a new chapter in my life. 

Once you do it, you just focus on what you're doing.  With this, coming back here, it's very sweet.  It's like the cherry on top of the ice cream.  It's really cool to be back. 

Q.        You could have driven for somebody else in a heartbeat, correct? 

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  I did have an opportunity, no question about it.  I definitely have a very challenging scenario when that opportunity came.  To be honest, when you look beyond the possibilities, you could drive for one or two more years, then what?  If you having this relationship for so many years with Roger, probably going to hit 20 years together, it's hard for you to just decide to jeopardize one or two years for all you've done so many years. 

Q.        When did you realize it was a good decision?  Was there a moment that you thought he was right?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  I think the first race in Daytona.  As soon as I jumped in the car, I saw, he never slept for the entire 24 hours.  He was there.  You know what, this is serious.  This is not just finding a place to replace, make someone happy.  That for me changed a lot of perspective.  I said, Time to move on. 

Q.        You talked about the challenge of getting back into the IndyCar.  What do you think of Danica?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  I say one thing, guys.  Not enough people give enough credit to her.  She's not only stayed away so many years from IndyCar, and come back, not only to be in a race, but to be in the Fast Nine, it shows that she's an amazing talent.  She opens so many doors for so many young ladies, young girls, to become a racecar driver.  Especially now, the area that women power, they have the equal to fight with the guys.  I tell you what, in auto racing, it couldn't be more equal.  She is the one that opened the door for them. 

Courageous for her, as well, making the decision to stop.  I don't know if I have that courage to do it.  Good for her.  I will try and make it as hard as I can her last 500, for sure it's an honor to be sharing the track with her all the years that I did. 

Q.        As one of several former winners in this race, how difficult is it to win the Indy 500?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Thinking about three and a half hours of racing, 33 guys, some of them won already, some have been close, some are ones that are just starting.  Plus you have a new car.  You have a completely different scenarios of racing maybe.  Who knows what the weather.  If it's too hot, the car is going to handle it one way.  Not so hot, the car is going to handle it another way.  Then you have the pit stops. 

Put all this together, there are so many things can go wrong, and only few things to go right.  That's the type of scenario we're facing for three, three and a half hours.  It is one of the toughest marathons that you can possibly imagine.  That's why it's a thrill when you accomplish that. 

Q.        Do you have a sense of how this car is going to react on race day?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Very small.  I only race on a road course.  I hope I'm feeling the car getting better through the run.  If that's the case, I'm super excited.  It will be a learning curve for everyone, including myself.  That's my mentality at the moment. 

Hopefully I will have it just the way I want it.  By the end, we'll be fighting for the lead. 

Q.        The transition from sports cars, how did Roger approach you?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  He asked me to go to Detroit.  I went to Detroit.  We were just sitting down.  It wasn't official back then.  He asked me what is my thoughts about sports cars.  Obviously I knew where we were going.  But the interesting thing is that he wasn't thinking to replace me with some other driver, he was just thinking to eliminate one car, actually adding a good group of guys, spread among the sports car.  He wants to have a top-class engineers, mechanics, so when we go to the sports car world, we're there.  That's what he presented to me. 

I'm in.  Where am I going to go?  There's no other seat.  You're taking a seat away.  I mean, I have no intention to go anywhere until a few offers start coming in.  I have to say, obviously, I was very flattered that hear some other options. 

Q.        Were you at all hurt when he made the suggestion?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  No.  Like I said, the approach that he made was he wants me there, he wants me part of a winner's team.  Who doesn't want to win?  Whatever it is, you want to be a winner.  I know being with Team Penske I would be right up there. 

But as a first impact, Wow, why?  You're just trying to understand.  Why don't you hire more people?  You have questions that I can only ask.  I'm sure there is a purpose. 

Roger isn't thinking about today or tomorrow, he's thinking about five years from now.  I start to understand the philosophy, which made me decision much more easy. 

Q.        How long would you like to do this?  Be like Tom Brady?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Yeah, why not?  I mean, age today is just a number.  You heard so many things  If I still have the fire inside me, still interested to be a racer, that's my passion, that's what I really love.  I guess the sky is the limit. 

Hopefully seven more years, I believe  If you put a number, seven more years racing.  You see many, Tom Brady is one, Roger Federer is another one.  Doing phenomenal, c'mon. 

Q.        We won't hold you to it. 

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  With the technology today, with the way people really maintain themselves sharp, healthy, things like that, I do feel you can get better because you have more experience than some young ones, especially this race here, it plays a big deal. 

Q.        What is the secret of speed on an oval?  Does it come from the car or the driver?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  The secret is there are two kinds of drivers:  one is going to crash, the one that has already crashed.  Those that already crashed, that he probably going to be faster than the one that is going to crash (laughter). 

There is so much involvement.  The car sometimes has a limit.  Driver surpasses the limit.  You got to understand how can you make the car to follow the driver.  That's probably one of the biggest challenges in the oval.  When you're talking about a fast corner, probably any good driver can drive a fast corner. 

I imagine when you have four fast corners, when something goes unexpected, you got to be prepared for that.  That's what I feel makes a difference, when someone have a lot of experience. 

Q.        Mentally how difficult is it to keep fully focused for almost three hours?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  It's important.  It's difficult, yes.  But it's important for you to keep focused.  Automatic that requires from you, when you have a loose car, let me tell you, you're just thinking, When is my next stop so that I can relax?  Right now you are hardly breathe.  For you to go 30 laps like that, it's very, very difficult. 

It's a very challenging scenario when you drive an oval, for sure. 

Q.        Speaking about the setup, you mentioned loose cars, obviously it's not the target.  Do you want a pushing car, a neutral car?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Whatever is fast.  If that time of the race the push is a little bit faster, which is unlikely, you do it.  Normally with a loose car you got to also measure the risk of it. 

Q.        Would it be faster? 

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Sometimes loose not fast because you start lifting.  Because of that, you start going slow.  You got to balance it out.  Every driver has your own technique, your own favorite.  Some people like to ride on the right rear.  Some people like to go more on the front.  It just depend. 

Q.        There's another dynamic between you and Roger in that he's on your pit box on Sunday.  If you win, he's calling the race, are you proving him right or wrong?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Roger is always right, let's put it that way.  He's never wrong. 

But it would be good.  I definitely have the right boss.  I definitely have the right strategist.  We definitely have the right car.  We just got to put it all together and obviously wok to be there in the end. 

Q.        Do you have a clue what this car is going to be like in traffic?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  It's interesting.  Looks like the two, three guys in the front might be fighting, which gives an opportunity for the guys in the back to start saving fuel.  If they start saving fuel, those guys are going to be fighting for it.  Those that were fighting are going to start seeing a few. 

You're going to see a lot of dynamic.  Might not just be flat out like used to be in the past, especially back of the field, might be spread out a little bit more.  Once you lose the draft, might be hard to catch.  It is a question mark, even for us that are driving the car, how the car is going to react for three, four stints. 

We have a little bit of thinking, like I just mentioned.  Hopefully if that's the case, we're prepared enough to make adjustments that we need.

Q.        Do you think the leaders will be able to pull away at all? 

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  They might pull away, yes.  I have to say there is a possibility.  Once they get traffic, the guy that has been lapped is going to fight for his life to stay on the lead lap.  That's going to be a problem for the guys to start passing him.  If that's the case, everyone is going to start catching them again. 

We seen in practice some guys really running fast, like Carpenter was about 221 average.  Most of everyone is about 219, 218.  He's very secure, looks like, two miles an hour.  What kind of downforce is he running?  Is he going to be able to maintain that for the entire race.  When it's hotter, I doubt he's going to go that direction. 

Q.        Seems like it's going to be a hot track. 

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Being a hot track, you can only go so much downforce.  It's probably everybody is going to be very similar to the setup.  We just got to wait and see when the track is going to get better.  Now the track is going to be green.  When we race after a few laps, a few stints, track is going to be better.  That could be a potential to change downforce, trying to go fast. 

Q.        This week in practice, it looks like rather than following directly behind, you have to get half a car out to get clean air on the outside. 

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  That's the case.  Correct.  The only difference is, I'm not sure if the front wing is efficient enough to help that.  That's been the biggest challenge.  Like I said, you're trying to fix the issue with the understeer, you create another issue with a loose car.  Okay, I can survive for so long with a loose car, but still when you got approach very closely on a guy, create the push.  Where it leaves you on that direction? 

It's going to be interesting to find.  We're going to have six pit stops to sort it out.  Or whoever sort it out already, which I think is our case, that's going to be a lot of fun. 

Q.        How excited are you to be back, able to go for a fourth?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  I mean, you can say you're driving in a different series, still able to one the Indy 500.  It's super exciting.  It is very, very a thrill just to be here.  I can see the fans.  It's like I never left.  That's why it's very special. 

Q.        Guaranteed a spot next year if you win this year.  How cool is that?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  What can I say about him?  I can only thank him again.  Definitely the incentive helps.  Not that I need incentive to win number four.  It definitely helps the entire group.  I feel not only myself, but my group as well  Some of them are first time from the sports car group.  Some of them aren't in the sports car group, they're happy to be back, as well. 

It's a good feel to be back.  I would be more than happy to try to go for number five.  That would be incredible.  To get there, let's focus on Sunday for the number four. 

Q.        As athletes get older, they diminish.  Is it the same way in racing?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  Well, I don't think so.  In any sport, you cannot only say racing.  Look at Tom Brady, still pretty darn good.  Roger Federer.  Why need to say much.  When you're going that direction, depend on the person.  If person keeps themselves healthy, sharp, like they've always been doing, I guarantee they can go a long way.

Q.        Do you feel the same way about yourself?

HELIO CASTRONEVES:  I mean, racing, when you love what you do, there is no other place I want to be.  Driving the car, not just be in the race.  Watching race is not so much fun for me, but driving the race, that's what I enjoy. 

     FastScripts by ASAP Sports

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Dave Chess

Dave Chess has been writing for RIS since the late 1980s during the CompuServe days. His work has also appeared in Auto Week magazine, Chicago Gearhead News newspaper, ATA airlines in-flight magazine, National Speed Sport News and on many websites.

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Volume 2018, Issue 5, Posted 10:46 AM, 05.25.2018