Helio Castroneves re-signs for 2023 season with Meyer Shank Racing in IndyCar

Helio Castroneves Meyer Shank
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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MADISON, Illinois — There was no chance Meyer Shank Racing would risk four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves making history with another team.

Curtailing that possibility, the team announced a one-year contract extension Friday that will bring Castroneves back for a 26th full IndyCar season. Castroneves won his fourth Indy 500 in 2021 driving a part-time schedule for MSR as Castroneves was desperately fighting off a forced slide toward retirement.

Michael Shank believed in the popular Brazilian and last year’s Indy win led to a full season at MSR’s expanded two-car organization. Castroneves, 47, is insistent he’s got plenty of gas in his tank.

“I don’t want anyone else to win a fifth Indy 500,” Shank told The Associated Press. “He’s very emotional about this, he’s going down swinging. I think he’d like to do at least one more (full) year and then maybe try just Indy? And then do some other things, too. He wants to stay involved, he wants to use what he’s strong at, and we support him 100%.”

It’s hardly been the breakout season Shank had expected when Castroneves’ program was expanded into a full season and Simon Pagenaud became available at the same time Jack Harvey, the team’s first driver, left for Rahal Letterman Lanigan.

Castroneves is 18th in the standings, has led only one lap all year and finished seventh at Indy; Pagenaud is 12th in the standings and was eighth at Indy, and Shank believes will have a strong close to his first season with MSR.

They race Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway Gateway outside St. Louis, where Castroneves has an impressive record. In six career starts spanning both CART and IndyCar, Castroneves has one victory and has never finished lower than ninth. In three IndyCar races, his average finish is 2.3.

It has created hope for strong results from MSR on Saturday night at the final oval on this year’s IndyCar calendar. Castroneves has not raced Gateway since 2017.

He has admittedly struggled to adjust to the cockpit-protecting aeroscreen – which was added by IndyCar while Castroneves was competing full-time in sports cars following his nearly two decades with Team Penske – and his results this season have been inconsistent. Shank is planning personnel changes to Castroneves’ team.

“I didn’t expect how difficult it was. We are making some changes internally to make sure these last three races, we continue to improve,” Castroneves said. “This aeroscreen literally threw a curveball to find a sweet spot, taking longer than I expected for myself to adapt and to understand what the car needs. But we’re pushing. I feel like we could be better.

“But remember, it’s the first full-time season that I’m in. Certainly we’re preparing for bigger things in the future.”

Shank isn’t so much bothered by the results because of the value Castroneves brings to the team sponsors. The charismatic Brazilian is an entertainer – he won his season of “Dancing With the Stars” in 2007 – and is a hit at partner functions.

“Let’s just put the Indy 500 to the side for a minute, the relationship he’s had with our sponsors and our partners is like next-level (stuff) I’ve never seen before,” Shank told AP. “He is so good with people. Everyone wants him at their events, dinners, meet-and-greets, he’s just exceptional. And we have to deliver what our sponsors want.”

Castroneves has no idea how long he’d like to race, but he knows he has no plans to slow down. In addition to his extension with MSR, Castroneves is lobbying for a seat in the Daytona 500 with Trackhouse Racing and its Project91 program. Trackhouse wants to bring international drivers from other formulas to NASCAR and debuts Project91 this weekend with Formula One 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen.

Trackhouse team owner Justin Marks has said conversations with Castroneves are on pause until the team gets through its debut with Raikkonen. But Castroneves wants to be in the Daytona 500 and anything else he can fit into his schedule; he also participated in Tony Stewart’s all-star series for a second consecutive year this summer and his victory in the opener is what led to Daytona talks.

“You can’t put a number on it. I have the potential, the dedication, and I know I can do the results, and have the team and people behind,” Castroneves said about how long he plans to race. “The reason I’m still going for it is because I believe in all these aspects. I’m going to keep moving forward until I get the result.

“Obviously you get to a point that you’ve got to realize and as of right now, I don’t feel that in my gut. I feel I have a lot left in the tank. The number is just an age.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III