Verizon IndyCar GP of Indy Thursday notebook

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A few news and notes gathered from around the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock Thursday at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis…

  • From the aerial perspective of the media center, the speed of the cars going the opposite direction down the front straight doesn’t look that fast, especially compared to when you’re seeing 220-230 mph counter-clockwise on the oval. However, from the ground, the launch out of Turn 14 up to 190-plus mph does. Once you get past the initial “well, this looks weird” thought process, it’s decently cool.
  • On the other side, this being the first Thursday-Friday-Saturday event of the season, the rhythm and flow of the race weekend is different. Traditionally Thursday is a load-in day, yet with teams having been at the track for last week’s open test, plus ROP for some teams on Monday, it doesn’t feel like a standard setup day you’d see at a typical Friday-Saturday-Sunday road or street race weekend.
  • If there’s one thing I do find a bit weird, it’s the pit positioning. Consider Tony Kanaan, for instance, is in pit stall 23 for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. It’s third from pit in on the road course and one of the worst spots to be in. Yet if he was in that same position for the oval, he’d be third from pit out, and in one of the best spots. Pit positions will change after this race for Indianapolis 500 practice, and again once qualifying is complete for the race next weekend.
  • Livery update: all three Penske cars are in Verizon colors, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves basically inverting where the red and white are on their respective cars, Kanaan is in a multicolored blue and white Lexar scheme, Carlos Huertas has swapped red and white for blue and white on the Café de Colombia car, Josef Newgarden has the Klipsch Audio scheme and Franck Montagny and Martin Plowman premiere the SureTone and Alfe liveries, respectively.
  • Associate sponsor news! Butterball will be an associate on Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Andretti Autosport entry this month; KECO Coatings has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports; Robert Talbott will provide Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with co-branded sportswear for the team during the 2014 season; and Ed Carpenter Racing has confirmed cmcglobal and DMC Indy, consulting and logistical project management companies, for both the GP of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500.
  • KV Racing Technology is due to have several reveals in the next couple days. Townsend Bell, who will drive the team’s third car for the Indianapolis 500, is expected to have his livery revealed on Saturday. Meanwhile James Davison, who is targeted for a fourth, is anticipated to have his program officially confirmed on Friday. Davison will be the 33rd entrant into the 500-mile race, and will have to complete his Rookie Orientation Program once the program is finalized.
  • The new paved area at the north end of the track before the road course Turn 1, which houses the entire Mazda Road to Indy paddock, is a welcome addition to the circuit. Teams from all of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tire and the Cooper Tire USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda are setup in the area.

Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

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