On eve of 300th IndyCar start, Helio Castroneves eyes record-tying fourth Indy 500 win


Helio Castroneves hopes to enjoy the appetizer this weekend and then sink his teeth into the main course two weeks later.

The appetizer for the veteran racer will be to make his 300th career start in the IndyCar Series in this Saturday’s second-annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

“What a special moment for me to wake up every day and to do 300 times something that I love,” Castroneves said in a media teleconference. “And for me, it’s fantastic. It’s a blessing. … I’m one of those persons that is very fortunate to be able to keep doing with the same enthusiasm that I had in the past when it was the first time.

“So the 300th, it probably feels like just my first time. And I’m very excited about that. And hopefully the result will be a celebration so that we can make part of history as well.”

Ironically, the Brazilian native turns 40 years old the following day, Sunday, May 10. He has 29 career wins between the CART and IndyCar series, 83 combined podium finishes and 44 combined poles.

“It’s just like wine, you know, getting better with age,” he said with a laugh. “I’m excited. We’re not going to be on the track, we’re going to be off the track. But hopefully I’ll get my present on Saturday, on the 9th.”

source: AP
Helio Castroneves after this past Sunday’s first day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (AP photo)

After he makes his 300th start and celebrates his birthday, Castroneves will then begin the main course: his pursuit of a fourth career Indianapolis 500 championship on May 24.

If he wins that race, Castroneves — who has won the 500 in 2001, 2002 and 2009 — will join Rick Mears, AJ Foyt and Al Unser as the only four-time winners of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“It’s a matter of putting everything together,” Castroneves said. “Every time you come over here, it’s not about thinking the number of how many you won. It’s the matter of executing. Last year was super close — too close, and obviously we did everything during the month of May to put ourselves in that position.

“But I don’t think that, oh, that’s it, I’ve got to win four. You know, I’ve got to win, and no matter if it’s the Indy Grand Prix or the Indianapolis 500 or the championship, I want to go out there and give my best.

“Obviously it’s the Indianapolis 500, and if you give yourself a small moment to think about a fourth, what a great, incredible moment would it be being part of history. I do believe, and the fans are witness of that, so many people come to me and say, ‘Man, I want to see you win four, you know.’

“And that’s the beauty of it, when you have these type of people that are young, now it’s even teenager or older, ‘I saw your first win and I want to see you win four.’ So those things motivate me to go out there and give extra. (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) is automatic, it brings the best out of me. So I’m super excited to have this aero kit because it’s kind of reset everyone, and hopefully with that and the extra motivation, we’re going to make it happen.”

To hear Castroneves, especially with him turning 40 in a few days, if he doesn’t get his fourth Indy 500 win this year, he’s going to keep coming back year after year until he does.

It’s not a matter of if he’ll win No. 4, but when he’ll do it. To him, it’s almost inevitable.

“If I don’t win a fourth? Well, then we come back next year,” he said. “We never think it’s not going to happen. I always dream big, and I do believe big dreams come true.”

And Castroneves is giving himself at least 14 more years to become a member of that exclusive four-500 victory club – or maybe start a new club with a fifth or more win in the late May classic.

“It’s not about age for me,” he said. “Age is just a number. If you’re thinking about the past, drivers and special legends, they used to race until what, 54? Mario (Andretti), what was his last race?

I still have 14 more years. That’s my point, as long as you’re competitive, as long as you’re giving your heart effort, the results shouldn’t change.”

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Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.