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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Helio Castroneves

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017 with Helio Castroneves. An awkward “will he, won’t he” continue with the team in IndyCar in 2018 story line persisted throughout his 20th year and overshadowed what was a quintessentially Castroneves campaign – metronomically consistent, very fast, but shy of the title.

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2016: 3rd Place, Best Finish 2nd, 2 Poles, 4 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 143 Laps Led, 4.2 Avg. Start, 7.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 4th Place, 1 Win, 3 Poles, 3 Podiums, 9 Top-5, 16 Top-10, 442 Laps Led, 6.0 Avg. Start, 6.2 Avg. Finish

The full-time story of Helio Castroneves as an active Verizon IndyCar Series driver ultimately wrote its final chapter as summer shifted to fall, even if the sun seems to have set on that full-time career too soon. Once again, Castroneves frequently remained on top of his game.

A series of minor mistakes told the tale, though, as to how he fell short yet again. Ones at the Phoenix and Gateway short ovals dropped him to fourth in both races, costing potential wins. Castroneves was also slow to start from pole at Long Beach with an electrical glitch and faded to ninth there. At Detroit, having lost a pole on a penalty, Castroneves was frustrated the remainder of the weekend and ended seventh and ninth on a weekend when so much more was possible. His only DNF, and for that matter finish outside the top-10, came when an apparent right front tire issue shot him hard into the Turn 2 wall at Texas.

In a season where he ended 44 points back of champion Josef Newgarden, eliminating any of those tiny mistakes would have erased the deficit.

Otherwise, there was little to criticize. His drive at Indianapolis was his latest masterpiece, again ending short of that elusive fourth win, but this time doing so with a damaged race car and an apparent horsepower deficit to Takuma Sato in his Honda. His Iowa win was peerless, and vintage Castroneves as he snookered JR Hildebrand as the American struggled with traffic. His start at Toronto may have been the start of the year as he vaulted from third to first at Turn 1, and like others, he was a victim of timing on the caution flag caused by countryman Tony Kanaan.

Castroneves produced more magical moments in the 20th year of his illustrious career, but signs off still without that title. IndyCar will be worse for his departure, and IMSA will benefit from his arrival for Team Penske’s new Acura DPi program. That being said, we’ll get at least one more month of May for Castroneves in IndyCar in a fourth Team Penske car.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”