Helio Castroneves Looking To Reach New Heights In True Value/IROC Test At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Nov. 13, 2001) -- Helio Castroneves is looking for new fences to climb.
Castroneves, whose penchant for scaling fences after victories earned him the nickname "Spiderman," made his inaugural visit to Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday to participate in a True Value/IROC Series test session.
The 26-year-old native of Sao Paulo, Brazil and the 2001 Indianapolis 500 champion has an invitation to participate in the True Value/IROC XXVI, which will kick off its season with a 40-lap sprint on Feb. 15 during Speedweeks.
Castroneves, who delivered three victories and a fourth-place finish in the 2001 CART standings for Team Penske, says he'll climb the fence at Daytona if he can win against the All-Star field made up of the best drivers from the open wheel and stock car ranks.
"It doesn't matter if it's closed wheel or open wheel or go-kart, I believe a celebration is a celebration," Castroneves said.
Test drivers Dave Marcis and Jim Sauter gave Castroneves the ins and outs of the 2.5-mile tri-oval at DIS and the tricks to drafting in the identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds. Castroneves has never climbed into a stock car before Tuesday.
"I'm really impressed with the race track," Castroneves said. "I've never seen such a high banking in all of the tracks I've been to. It's unbelievable and incredible.
"(The test drivers) are telling me lines that you can run, lines that are fast. Obviously, I'm going to be the one to judge when I'm out there driving, but if you already have a little direction or tip, you can improve that." S auter, who took Castroneves around the track in a passenger vehicle, enjoys the role as a professor. Both he and Marcis talked with Castroneves and participated in some extended drafting sessions.
"People don't realize when a person first sees this place, it's overwhelming," Sauter said. "It's so huge. You don't know where to drive on the race track. I try to show him that place and show him you can drive three-wide if everybody respects everybody's position."
Castroneves, who resides in Miami, Fla., says it's a thrill to finally be able to drive on the high banks at Daytona.
"When I was living in Brazil, when they were talking about Daytona, it sounds racing," Castroneves said. "For us, we don't have much of a tradition with NASCAR. Since I was young, I was hearing Daytona and for me, it sounds racing.
"When I came to America, I was more familiar and started watching the races in IROC and NASCAR. Because it's close to Miami, I've always had a wish to come here but never had the opportunity. Here I am with the right opportunity at the right time."
Also on Tuesday at the Speedway, Richard Childress Racing concluded its two-day test with Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon turning laps. True Value/IROC testing continues on Wednesday with Marcis, Sauter and Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish, Jr. and Scott Sharp.
Guests can watch testing free of charge with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of DAYTONA USA. Tickets for Speedweeks 2002 events, including the Daytona 500 and the True Value/IROC Series, are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.