Helio Castroneves’ IndyCar schedule will remain part time for 2021 after Indy 500 victory


Helio Castroneves had hoped his fourth Indy 500 victory would lead to a seat this weekend at the NTT IndyCar Series doubleheader in Detroit and perhaps even a full schedule.

He asked many times over but Meyer Shank Racing held to its original plan.

The team said Monday it will field just its usual one car with Jack Harvey in the Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader, as well as its sports car in the IMSA race. The team has a six-race plan with Castroneves that launched at the Indy 500 and delivered MSR its first IndyCar victory.

Castroneves will instead make his debut Saturday night in Tony Stewart’s All-Star Superstar Racing Experience at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut as previously scheduled. His next scheduled IndyCar race is at Nashville in August. He also is scheduled to drive for MSR on the Indianapolis road course, as well as at Portland, Laguna Seca and the season finale at Long Beach.

“Heck yeah I wanted to go to Detroit. It’s a dear place in my heart but I understand. I can only push, you know?” said Castroneves, who has been lobbied since the deal was announced for more races. “I think I do have a little bit of a credit, but I understand about priorities. We’re constantly talking, we’re living in a great place. But it’s not like `let’s just jump in and make this happen.’

“I want, I want, I want, but I’ve got to make sure that it is the right time and there is a reason for it and I accept that.”

Castroneves has three career victories at Belle Isle, including his first career win in 2000 in which he climbed his first fence in celebration. It became his signature victory move and when he won the 500 on May 30 in a part-time entry for Michael Shank, his celebratory fence climb became the indelible moment of the 105th Indy 500.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway had opened to 135,000 fans in the largest sporting event since the start of the pandemic and hundreds of people climbed the fence to celebrate with only the fourth four-time winner. Castroneves was the first driver to join the four-time club since 1991.

He’s made no secret that he wants to be racing full-time in IndyCar but the only ride he could get this year was the six-race deal with Shank, who is conservatively trying to grow his program. Castroneves, 46, spent two decades driving for Roger Penske but had been aged out, moved over to the sports car program in 2018 and then cut loose after winning the IMSA championship last season before Penske folded the team.

“If he wants to go back full time in IndyCar, he definitely should. I feel like he’s been kind of pushed to end his IndyCar career,” Sebastien Bourdais said Monday. “I really feel like that’s the only thing that I’ve regretted for him, that it didn’t end on his terms. He was definitely not showing a slowing-down phase.”

Seats are now going to the younger drivers – IndyCar has six different winners in its six races, four are younger than 24 and three are first-time winners – and teams now are offering rides to Colton Herta, Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay.

“Right now there’s just a lot of young guys that are very good. The opportunities, like it or not, are probably going to go to Colton, probably going to go to guys like Rinus. It just is what it is,” veteran Graham Rahal said. “Does he deserve to be full time? Of course. He didn’t really get to end it on his terms. It was basically, `Here is what you’re going to go do next year.’ He didn’t get to have kind of a retirement tour. Maybe he doesn’t want one.”

Shank has said his wife makes the business decisions for the team and is very financially conservative, but he believes Castroneves can return to Indianapolis next year for a shot at becoming the first five-time winner.

“Just showing up and winning Indy every year sounds good to me,” Rahal said. “You can make a hell of a lot more money than running full time.”

Until then, Castroneves will try to stay busy. He has run only two races so far this year, but both were victories, beginning with his first career win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car race in January.

Now he’ll try something totally different in the six-race made-for-TV all-star series launched by Stewart and Ray Evernham set to race at classic short tracks across the country. All the venues will be new to Castroneves, as will the cars and the style of the racing. He said he last raced on a dirt track on a BMX bike when he was 8 in Brazil.

“I need to stay active, I need to find something,” he said. “I’m ready to learn, I will try to be competitive for sure. Sometimes you try something new, it might not go the right direction, so let’s see.”

Kyle Larson wins High Limit Sprint race at Tri-City Speedway ahead of Rico Abreu

Larson High Limit Tri-City
High Limit Sprint Car Series

A late race caution set up a 14-lap shootout at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois with Kyle Larson winning his second consecutive High Limit Sprint Car Series race over Rico Abreu.

Starting eight on the grid after a disappointing pole dash, Larson missed several major incidents as he worked his way to the front. On Lap 1 of 35, a five-car accident claimed Tyler Courtney and Michael “Buddy” Kofoid, who both took a tumble and before collecting three other cars. Once that red flag was lifted, it didn’t take long for drivers to get tangled again as the leader Danny Dietrich experienced engine trouble on Lap 8. When he slowed rapidly, second-place Brent Marks collided with his back tire, ending the day for both.

Larson moved up to fourth with this incident.

Another red flag on Lap 21 for a flip involving Parker Price-Miller set up the dash for the win.

“My car felt really good and then we got that red,” Larson said from victory lane. “I was kind of running through the crumbs before that in 3 and 4; I could tell the top was getting really sketchy. Parker was making mistakes up there.

“When the red came out, I could see there was a clean lane of grip – not just marbles. It’s hard to see when you’re at speed. I figured Rico was going to run the top and he did. I got to his inside a couple of times and I was like ‘please don’t go to the bottom,’ and I threw a slider on him. Then he went to the bottom and I thought I was screwed until he spun his tires really bad off the corner and I was able to hit the top okay and get another run and slide him. I got good grip off the cushion.”

The victory makes Larson the first repeat winner in the series’ five-race history. He beat Justin Sanders earlier this month at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio.

With 10 laps remaining, Larson caught and pressured Abreu. The two threw a series of sliders at one another until Abreu bobbled on the cushion and lost momentum.

“Anytime you race Rico and he’s on the wall like that, you have to get aggressive,” Larson said. “He’s pushing so hard that just to stay in the striking zone if he makes a mistake, you have to push hard too.”

For Abreu, it was his second near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps.

“I felt like I made a lot of mistakes at the end,” Abreu said. “It’s just hard to judge race pace. You’ve got Kyle behind you and [Anthony] Macri and these guys that have had speed all year long. I was racing as hard as I could and the mistake factor is more and more critical.”

Cory Eliason earned his career-best High Limit finish of third after starting deep in the field in 13th.

Macri lost one position during the race to finish fourth with Sam Hafertepe, Jr. rounding out the top five.

Visiting from the NASCAR Cup series, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 19th in the 25-car field after advancing from the B-Main.

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway