Helio Castroneves recalls ‘Days of Thunder’ moment to win the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In the movie remake of Meyer Shank Racing’s victory in the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Helio Castroneves is Cole Trickle, and Simon Pagenaud is his Harry Hyde.

Castroneves, the four-time Indy 500 winner, was leading on the final lap entering the Le Mans Chicane on the backstretch when Mathieu Jaminet and Laurens Vanthoor collided directly in front while battling for the GTD Pro lead.

“It was a huge cloud of smoke and a huge moment,” Castroneves told NBC Sports. “It was just like ‘Days of Thunder’ when the guy went through the smoke and could see nothing. It was exactly like that. But thank god, when I came out, there was one car on one side, and the other car was on another, I was able to downshift, kept going and finish the lap.”

Fending off former teammate Ricky Taylor in hot pursuit, Castroneves closed out his second consecutive Rolex 24 victory and celebrated with a fence climb that he and the team largely credited to Pagenaud, his IndyCar teammate who played the part of a grizzled NASCAR crew chief-style whisperer in the closing laps by relying on his sports car wisdom to coach Castroneves in anticipation of the GTD Pro battle.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists and schedules for the 2023 IMSA season opener

As he nervously watched Jaminet and Vanthoor furiously bang fenders, Pagenaud realized that the No. 60 Acura driven by Castroneves would catch the jousting Porsches while entering the “Bus Stop,” the nickname for the backstretch chicane that is the trickiest section of the Daytona International Speedway.

Simon Pagenaud kisses his first winning Rolex (Chris du Mond/IMSA).

“I remember being extremely stressed out, probably more than I’ve ever been in racing just because I have finished second in every big endurance race in my life,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports. “I told the team to let Helio know what’s happening ahead so he doesn’t misunderstand the battle and can judge it properly. Fortunately, for us, Helio judged it perfectly. The two Porsches went off track, and he managed and still stayed in the lead.

“That will stay with me a long time because it was a high level of stress, but the team was open-minded enough to listen and allow me to relay that message to Helio, which is very unusual on a team at this level of stress at the end of a race.”

Said Castroneves: “It was incredible that Simon was the one spotting the fight. He told the spotter to make sure they were letting me know and being aware. And I’m glad they did because I started backing off even with Ricky on my tail. The most difficult scenario was not being able to see it.”

The victory was the second in the Rolex 24 for Mike Shank (who also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves), and it validated the team owner’s decision to hire Castroneves and Pagenaud as his new full-time IndyCar drivers. Eight months later, MSR capped the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with its first title in the premier prototype category.

Shank said he loves pulling up YouTube to rewatch the Rolex 24 victory, which also featured a rebound from a punctured right rear tire that Castroneves calmly nursed to the pits for repairs.

“It makes me think about all the times when I don’t think our team got respect for as good as we were,” Shank told NBC Sports. “I think about those times, and it feels like redemption, and I love that. Because in a lot of people’s mind, we’re still the small team that can and all this stuff that I really get tired of (hearing).

“We’re not a small team anymore, and we’ve won some of the biggest races in the world, and I can bank our results against anyone. But it’s taken a long time to get that, so it makes me think how far we’ve come and how proud I am of the people who have been at MSR for some of them 25-26 years, what we’ve all done together.”

Oliver Jarvis, Tom Blomqvist, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud (from left to right) celebrate their victory in the 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona (Brett Farmer/IMSA).

Despite the switch to a new hybrid engine in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype category, MSR is off to a strong start in its title defense. Tom Blomqvist put the No. 60 on pole position for the 61st Rolex 24, which begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on NBC.

The team also has added Colin Braun, a three-time Rolex 24 class winner, to team full time with Blomqvist for a run at the championship. Just as they will in IndyCar as MSR teammates for the second consecutive year, Castroneves and Pagenaud return for MSR at Daytona to provide support both behind the wheel and on the pit box.

“When you’re on the bench, that’s what is really cruel about sports car racing,” Pagenaud said. “And what I’m not used to on the IndyCar side because I’m always in the fire of the action. In sports cars, you tend to put yourself in the car and in the head of the driver and at that moment when I calculated Helio was going to meet them in the Bus Stop, and if I’m Jaminet or Vanthoor, I’m not thinking of anybody else than me winning the race. So they don’t know it’s coming. There’s no way they even think of it.

“For me it was very important for me to relay that message, but I knew that Helio was going to judge it right because he’s got that Brazilian magic in these moments.”

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.