Tony Stewart was always good in an Indy car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so he’s constantly asked when he’s coming back to run – and his standard reply is that you can’t just show up once a year and be competitive in the Indianapolis 500.
But Helio Castroneves thinks he’s a different case.
“I understand what Tony is saying because most times it’s a new car, new crew and everyone is trying to learn the car and each other,” Castroneves said during a break in Monday’s testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“But my situation is totally different. I tested at Barber and I’ve got the same engineer (Jonathan Diuguid) I had for eight years and I’ve got three teammates that are running all the races.
“It’s like I never left.”
The three-time Indy 500 winner is a full-time IMSA driver for Roger Penske and a May-only participant at IMS. But he’s as focused as he’s ever been.
“Man, I’ve been coming here for 20 years and I love this place,” he said. “It was tough going to St. Pete and watching, but Indianapolis is the race everyone wants to win and we know how important it is to Roger so I’m just happy to be part of the team.
“Sports cars are fun but there’s nothing like Indianapolis.”
During Monday afternoon’s session Castroneves was already over 223mph and said the new aero kit felt fine.
“It’s a new car so we’re trying to figure out if it’s two turns of front wing or just one,” he said. “We have a little tiny rear wing but I’m still flat out so today is all about finding out what springs and ride heights this car likes.
“I’m trying to see how fast we can go without scaring me too bad.”
Nobody has been any more formidable around the Speedway than the 42-year-old veteran. He’s got a trio of runner-up finishes (including last year’s heartbreaker) and a third and a fourth in addition to his three triumphs.
“Driving around here is like going back to an old house and your old bed where everything is so familiar,” he said. “I still get excited driving under the tunnel into this place. And I can’t wait to get going.”