Getty Images

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Helio Castroneves

Leave a comment

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.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).