Helio Castroneves hoping SRX win leads to seat in Daytona 500

Castroneves SRX Daytona 500
Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images

Justin Marks’ own mother heard the rumor and texted her son, the owner of Trackhouse Racing, to find out if SRX winner Helio Castroneves will be running the Daytona 500 for the NASCAR team.

That would be the logical spot for the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner who has longed to give NASCAR a shot. Don Hawk, the first-year CEO of the Superstar Racing Experience, told Castroneves that if he won one of the summer all-star series races, Hawk would help Castroneves get a NASCAR start.

Well, Castroneves won the SRX opener last Saturday night, and Hawk has been burning up the phone lines since.

Trackhouse Racing last month announced “Project91” to help international drivers enter NASCAR races. Retired Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen is first up with a scheduled August start on the road course at Watkins Glen.

“My side job is representing Mr. Castroneves,” Hawk said. “Phone calls have been taking place, the ball is rolling. We’re not ready to say a whole lot publicly. But the ball is rolling. It all depends on how this thing rolls out, whether we’re going to look at more than one race or optional races.

“The intention originally was he really wanted to run in the Daytona 500, it was a crown jewel. And so we’re really going to try to make the Daytona 500 work.”

Because of the Trackhouse program, speculation instantly turned to Project91 as the landing spot for Castroneves. He’s won Indianapolis four times, the Rolex 24 at Daytona twice and an IMSA sports car championship, but could never convince Roger Penske to give him a shot in NASCAR.

Marks told The Associated Press that he has not spoken to Hawk about Castroneves, but “my mom texted me and asked `Are you talking to Helio?’ ”

Castroneves doesn’t know what deals Hawk might be working, but he’s very serious about getting into next year’s Daytona 500. He will be 47 years old when “The Great American Race” rolls around next February and now drives for Meyer Shank Racing in IndyCar, a team that does not prohibit him from extracurricular racing.

“I drove for so many years with Roger Penske and I was not able to get an opportunity there. Now, I have an opportunity in my contract, so why not, why not try something that I never did,” Castroneves said. “So now I’m trying SRX, IMSA, IndyCar. It will be very natural to try something that I’ve always (wanted to do), which was NASCAR.

“I know it will be tough, but hey, who knows, in racing you never expect how things could be surprising. Hopefully I’m going to get into it with Don and be in the Daytona 500 for sure.”

Part of Tony Stewart’s hope in creating SRX last year was that it would help drivers find other opportunities and it worked in its inaugural season. Ernie Francis Jr., a seven-time class champion in the Trans Am Series, caught Penske’s eye when he won the SRX race in Indianapolis and it led to a full-time ride this year in the Indy Lights Series.

Castroneves turning an SRX win into a Daytona 500 would be the biggest payoff for this strategy to date.

The wildest part of Castroneves’ deal with Hawk is that he won last Saturday night at Five Flags Speedway in Florida, where SRX had no idea Castroneves was racing. His participation over the six Saturday nights is built around his IndyCar schedule, and there was a misunderstanding over Castroneves’ participation in the opening race.

He was already on the plane headed to Pensacola last Friday night when it was discovered SRX did not know he was coming. SRX had available cars – the premise of the series is that all the cars are equally prepared for star drivers from multiple formulas of racing – and had one ready for Castroneves when he arrived.

“It shows you that the 16 cars we prepared are really what we say they are, they’re equal cars. That car was not even going to be raced and it won,” Hawk said. “He started scratch on the field and he won. There’s so many things that went in the right direction. We had four spare cars, any one of them you could just put your seat insert in and we’re good to go.”

SRX races this Saturday night live on CBS at South Boston Speedway in Virginia. Peyton Sellers, a native of Danville, Virginia, and six-time South Boston track champion, is the weekly “ringer” entered in the field.

“I rank this opportunity right at the top of things I’ve been able to do,” Sellers said. “I had the opportunity in 2005 to run the Rolex 24 at Daytona. I have had the opportunity to race an Xfinity car at Indianapolis. I’ve had a chance to race Daytona, Talladega, a lot of those tracks. To have the caliber of drivers we’ve got, to have the caliber of cars we’ve got in SRX is big. With the caliber of program SRX has put together, for me to be asked to be a part of it is a really neat opportunity.”

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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