Helio Castroneves made it mighty hard to tell 237 days had passed between his last Verizon IndyCar Series race at Sonoma in September and his run to a strong sixth on Saturday at the Indy Grand Prix.
“It’s just like I never left, you know?” the 43-year-old Team Penske driver said after climbing from the silver No. 3 Chevy. “It was great strategy from the team. We started with the [Firestone] blacks and took a gamble. It wasn’t worth it to try to fight because I kind of knew it would have come back, and it did. The team did a phenomenal job staying cool. All my guys did phenomenal pit stops. This is a group that we’re going to have for the 500. So, imagine when you have the guys just showing up and doing the job is incredible.”
Castroneves has one more IndyCar race on his calendar before returning to full-time status with Penske’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship outfit. Pursuing his fourth Indy 500 victory is the only thing on the Brazilian’s mind, and with a bit of adversity in the GP where contact he received ended up knocking one of his teammates off course, it’s safe to say Castroneves is fully re-engaged with the demands of open-wheel racing.
“I feel sorry about Simon [Pagenaud],” he said. “[Takuma] Sato hit me on the back. I lost control on that part of hitting the No. 22 of Simon, but he made a phenomenal comeback. Again, it’s great to be back in Indianapolis and I’m ready to get going.”