Helio Castroneves inducted to Team Penske Hall of Fame

Castroneves Team Penske Hall
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Helio Castroneves became the ninth inductee to the Team Penske Hall of Fame on Friday.

With Castroneves’ longtime teammate and friend Gil de Ferran in tow, Penske’s President Tim Cindric traveled to Florida to honor the driver with the longest tenure in the organization. Castroneves has been a Team Penske driver for 21 seasons.

Much of the remainder of the organization attended the ceremony virtually-a sign of the times as the country continues to battle novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“What an incredible surprise,” said Castroneves in a press release. “I was hoping to visit the Team Penske shop in North Carolina to see everyone after the season, but we couldn’t do it with all of the COVID-19 restrictions. It was so great to connect with everyone virtually.

“I have so many friends and people that are really like family to me after 21 years together. That was awesome, but for TC (Cindric) to then announce that I was being inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame, wow. What an amazing honor. I want to thank Roger (Penske), TC and everyone at Team Penske that I’ve worked with over the years. It has been an incredible ride and this is such a special tribute.”

Castroneves began his Penske career 2000 and was immediately successful. In 2001 and 2002 he became the first driver in the history of the sport to win in his first two Indianapolis 500 starts. The next year it was only his teammate de Ferran that kept him from making it three in a row; Castroneves finished 0.299 seconds behind him in second.

But Castroneves would return to Indy 500 glory in 2009 and become one of only 10 drivers to win the marquee race three times.

Castroneves Team Penske Hall
Helio Castroneves and Roger Penske talk during practice at Auto Club Speedway. (Paul Mounce/Getty Images)

After scoring 24 IndyCar wins, Castroneves transitioned to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2018 with one win that season at Mid-Ohio. Last year he won four times including three consecutive.  That was enough to give him and teammate Ricky Taylor the 2020 DPi championship. It was the perfect ending for a team that shuttered its sports car program at the end of the year.

After 21 seasons and 344 combined career starts, Castroneves produced 36 wins (fifth in team history), 60 poles (first in team history), 107 podium results (first in team history) and 160 top-five finishes (second in team history).

“What can I say, Helio and I came to Team Penske at the end of 1999 and our relationship goes beyond racing,” said Cindric. “We have had a lot of fun together over the years and it is hard to imagine this team without him.  He really defines what it is to be a ‘team player.’ Even though he will be competing against us next year, he can always count on us to be there for him.”

Castroneves will continue to add to his racing legacy with six IndyCar races next year with Meyer Shank Racing at Barber Motorsports Park, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500, the Harvest Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the Grand Prix of Portland and the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in September.

Castroneves joins previous Team Penske Hall of Fame honorees: Roger Penske (2016), Mark Donohue (2016), Rick Mears (2017), Karl Kainhofer (2017), Rusty Wallace (2018), Walter Czarnecki (2018), Don Miller (2019) and Dan Luginbuhl (2019).


IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)