Forever Young Helio Castroneves 'Honored, Blessed' to Get Shot at 5th Indy 500 Win

indianapolis, in during indianapolis 500 practice in indianapolis, indiana photo by james black ims photo
Castroneves 'Honored' to Get Shot at 5th Indy 500Penske Entertainment/James Black
  • Helio Castroneves, Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr. have all won four Indy 500s

  • Castroneves, 49, won his fourth Indianapolis 500 at age 46.

  • Sunday's race is Castroneves' first, and likely only, IndyCar start in 2024.

The “drive for five” continues for Helio Castroneves. He's 49 in calendar years but forever young, Castroneves again pursues a record fifth victory in the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, attempting to lift himself above what he Thursday called the “incredible gods of racing.”

Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr.—those “gods”—won four Indy 500s. So has Castroneves. He takes another shot Sunday at becoming the only person on the planet to win five times on Indy’s hallowed ground.


“To wake up in the morning and have this amazing opportunity, first of all, to be already with this incredible gods of racing, Rick Mears, A.J. and Al Unser Sr., I’m honored and blessed to be in this position,” Castroneves said. “Now having this opportunity to do something nobody ever did. People are saying records are made to be broken in any sport. Why not?”

helio castroneves indy 500
Helio Castroneves has a chance to join a new club at this year’s Indianapolis 500.Penske Entertainment/Paul Hurley

Castroneves will start in the middle of the seventh row for Meyer Shank Racing Sunday and is not considered among the favorites. A Castroneves win Sunday would light up Indy’s sweeping grandstands, however.

“I’m sure a lot of fans want to see that,” Castroneves said. “I want to see that. I’m sure these guys here (Marco Andretti and Scott Dixon, sharing an interview table with him), they want to try to stop that. But that’s life.”

Castroneves scored his fourth 500 win in 2021 at the age of 46. The only drivers who have won the race at an older age are Bobby Unser (47 in 1981) and Al Unser Sr. (47 in 1987). Castroneves previously won the 500 in 2001, 2002 and 2009.

Castroneves’ approach generally hasn’t changed across almost a quarter-century of racing in the 500. “He still goes out there in a methodical way and kind of builds up to it, right?” said Tom Blomqvist, his Meyer Shank teammate this week. “I think that shows how much respect you need to give this place. Someone who has done it so many times, won four times … yet the car has downforce on it, he’ll peel that off if he wants to feel more comfortable or needs more speed. There are so many ways that gives you confidence as a rookie that you can go about this in the same way. This guy has won it so many times and he’s doing about it the same way as a rookie would.”

Castroneves said his expectations are high. “I’m always expecting to be better,” he said. “I can only trust in the work that goes behind the scenes with the mechanics and the engineers and engine manufacturer. It’s teamwork. In the race car, I felt very, very strong. I was able to use a lot of things that I did in the past with the setup numbers. My expectation is high, like always. Looking forward to a challenging day, without a question.”

Sunday’s race likely will be a one-off for Castroneves (now a part owner at Meyer Shank), but he doesn’t see limited driving time as a negative. “In 2021, I was about six months without—actually about a year without—being in an Indy car,” he said. “I jump in, new time, new people—that was actually even harder, and we still ended up being able to execute.”

Castroneves’ starting spot isn’t ideal, but the long race offers plenty of time to try to challenge closer to the front.

“You got to read the vibe at the beginning,” he said. “You can't just do something. That's normally how I would approach at this point, not knowing the racing of those guys in front of me. I got to see what the situation's going to be and see the restart. I'm just going to read the race and go according to it.”