Helio Castroneves open to taking a crack at NASCAR

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It’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, but IZOD IndyCar Series co-points leader Helio Castroneves appears open to trying his hand at NASCAR one day in the future.

Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, does have a bit of experience in racing with a roof over his head. He made 16 starts from 2002 to 2005 in the now-defunct International Race of Champions, which saw its competitors drive identically-prepared cars.

At the time Castroneves raced in IROC, NASCAR drivers usually made up the majority of the grid and the series was racing primarily on ovals. Naturally, the Brazilian’s best IROC finish came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he finished second in 2002 behind former Sprint Cup standout Dale Jarrett.

“If there is an opportunity, yes, but I would like to try the car first,” Castroneves said on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “I remember talking to Rick Mears a long time ago and asked about different series, and he said you should try before you just make a decision.

“The closest that I got [to NASCAR] was in the IROC [series] and I loved it. It was actually a lot of fun and very difficult, but a lot of fun. If the opportunity presents itself then certainly would love to try, but right now, I only have one thing on my mind and that is trying to win as much races as possible here [in IndyCar] and hopefully bring this championship to [team owner] Roger [Penske].”

His boss can certainly provide a sample of stock car racing for Castroneves if and when he’d like to try it. In addition to their IndyCar program, Penske runs squads in NASCAR’s top two categories, Sprint Cup and Nationwide.

Also, should Castroneves want extra advice on the matter, he could certainly pick the brain of his former open-wheel teammate, three-time IndyCar champ Sam Hornish Jr. – who currently drives one of Penske’s NNS rides. After an Indy 500 win in 2006 and those aforementioned championships, Hornish flipped to a full-time stock car career in 2008. He’s currently second in the NNS standings.