Helio Castroneves having fun in new IndyCar role, wants more races

Castroneves IndyCar
Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Helio Castroneves won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, has a full season of racing in the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) series ahead of him and six IndyCar races scheduled. He is having fun, but he wants more.

“It would be awesome to be part of more races, which accelerate the adaptation to the car,” Castroneves said during a preseason, IndyCar Zoom press conference. “Yes, I would love to be a full season. That would be a no-brainer. To be not only ready, but to be competitive.

“I always feel that we could do a little bit more, but I understand the process with Meyer Shank Racing. We’ll just keep it going. We’ll find ways. … Also IMSA. I had a great three years. It would be a waste of three years to just throw out all the experience that I learned there over the three years. As of right now, yes, if I can do more IndyCar racing, it would be great.”

When Castroneves signed on with Tony Stewart’s SRX series in August, the rest of his schedule was unknown.

In November, it was announced he would run six races for Meyer Shank Racing including the season-opener at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indy 500.

The focus remains on IndyCar, but Castroneves is open to new opportunities.

“On the IMSA schedule, I just did Wayne Taylor, 24-Hour Daytona,” Castroneves said. “As of right now, I don’t have anything in IMSA. I only focus now with IndyCar. Actually I’m doing SRX, if you guys know, this year for Tony Stewart. Other than that, I am not doing – well, I haven’t had any invitation with IMSA whether through Meyer Shank Racing or any other team.”

But for now, Castroneves is having fun and relishing his role. His former ride at Team Penske, which whom he raced for more than 20 years, became habit. Racing with Meyer Shank means not only learning how a new team approaches things, but where the driver fits in their program.

Castroneves also has a new car with Dallara-Honda and the new characteristics of it enhances the fun-factor.

“First of all, like I say, we had our first test in Laguna,” Castroneves said. “It was actually fun. Main thing was to get myself adept again to the IndyCar.

“It was funny. Coming out of the corkscrew with the Acura, I was ‘just step on it, the traction control would do all the rest of the work.’ First few laps (in the new car), as soon as I went for my fast lap out there, I kind of had brain fade a little bit, went to the Acura mode and went full throttle. The car was like sideways. I was like, ‘Easy boy, easy’. It was a very interesting scenario.

“I’m glad and I like to be part of this. With Team Penske I knew it would be okay, so I wasn’t worry about it. Now I’m part of it this development. That’s really cool. I really enjoy this.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images

Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.