Helio Castroneves wants to run the Daytona 500, but wanting to run NASCAR’s biggest race and landing a ride are two different things.
Castroneves has four Indianapolis 500 rings, but also a hunger to try different things. It’s what led Castroneves to participate in SRX, and a conversation with CEO Don Hawk about the Daytona 500.
Hawk told Castroneves he’d work to get him a ride in the Daytona 500 if he won an SRX race, which Castroneves took care of in the season’s curtain-raiser at Five Flags.
Since then, Hawk has been working the phones. There has not been much publicly said about any potential deals, and Castroneves seems content to let Hawk handle things. Hawk recently told RACER progress is being made, but there is nothing new to report.
If Castroneves running the Daytona 500 comes to fruition, the question is, where could he potentially land? Hendrick Motorsports is full with its four cars. The same goes for Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. And unless the price is right, it wouldn’t make sense for some others like 23XI Racing, Front Row Motorsports, or RFK Racing to add a car that isn’t there.
There are other options for Castroneves, though. Here’s a breakdown of a few:
The introduction of PROJECT91 for international stars wanting to run a Cup Series race falls right in line with what Castroneves, who hails from Brazil, wants to do. Trackhouse plans to enter one race this season at Watkins Glen with Kimi Raikkonen and then expand the program with more races in the future.
Team co-owner Justin Marks told RACER there have been discussions with Castroneves about him being a part of PROJECT 91. However, Trackhouse is focused on the Watkins Glen effort before determining what their 2023 plans will look like.
“The Daytona 500 is tough,” Marks said, “but not impossible.”
Spire Motorsports currently fields two full-time cars with Corey LaJoie as the team’s primary driver in the No. 7 Chevrolet, while the No. 77 Chevrolet is being shared between Landon Cassill and Josh Bilicki.
A spokesperson for Spire told RACER that leadership has talked to Hawk about the opportunity for Castroneves to run the Daytona 500. However, no other details were shared other than there are variables to work through, and no agreement between the two parties was discussed or is imminent.
Castroneves was a long-time Team Penske driver, but it doesn’t look like his NASCAR opportunity will come with the organization he spent decades with Penske fields three full-time cars for Ryan Blaney, Austin Cindric, and Joey Logano and has before fielded a fourth, the No. 33 Ford.
Most recently, that was done for Cindric, who was given a slate of races in 2021 in preparation for his move into the Cup Series.
However, RACER was told Team Penske has nothing to report on connecting with Castroneves or how a deal could be put together.
Kaulig Racing also fields two cars with one primary driver, Justin Haley, in the No. 31 Chevrolet and the second car, the No. 16, split between multiple drivers. But Kaulig told RACER the team doesn’t have anything available for the Daytona 500.