Castroneves on 2022: Difficult to teach an old dog a new trick

Four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves says returning to full-time IndyCar racing two years into the aeroscreen era has left him playing catch-up but positive about the future.

Castroneves on 2022: Difficult to teach an old dog a new trick
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Team Penske shifted the Brazilian veteran from IndyCar to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the end of 2017, and he went on to score five wins in the Acura Team Penske ARX-05 – culminating in him winning the Prototype crown along with Ricky Taylor. During this period, he also raced for Penske in the Indy Grand Prix for two years and the Indy 500 for three years, and subbed for Oliver Askew at Arrow McLaren SP for two races.

At the end of 2020, he was released by Penske, and after winning the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for Wayne Taylor Racing, he joined Meyer Shank Racing’s IndyCar team for six races and scored his fourth Indy 500 victory. For this year, MSR signed Castroneves full-time. He won the Rolex 24 again, but in IndyCar, results have proven harder to come by, the highlight so far this year being seventh at the Indy 500.

On the subject of possible retirement, the 47-year-old veteran said: “Obviously you get to a point that you’ve got to realize. As of right now, I don't feel that in my gut: I feel I have a lot left in the tank. The age is just a number. It's about understanding, especially with this new car, even for a veteran, experienced guy like myself, the car changed. When you don't have practice and things like that, it's become very challenging.”

Castroneves, who said he and MSR were “finalizing some small details” about their contract for 2023, admitted that he had been surprised at the problems he had faced re-acclimating to IndyCars but with aeroscreens, which were introduced in 2020.

“I didn't expect how difficult it was,” he said. “We are making some changes internally to make sure these last three races, we continue to improve. This aeroscreen literally throw a curve ball. To find a sweet spot is taking longer than I expected for myself to adapt and to understand what the car needs. We’re always one side or another. We're never able to find it.

“You see good drivers, guys that used to be in the series longer, have those inconsistencies, as well. 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.”

MSR has a technical alliance with Andretti Autosport, but Castroneves says that pooling the data from six cars doesn’t necessarily speed up the adaptation because of the differing driving styles.

“When you have, for example, say Colton [Herta] and Alex [Rossi], they been in the team for quite some time with Andretti, you see the ups and downs that they go through, all the systems developed by these two guys, their style. I'll be honest, Colton and Alex are kind of like the opposite. I did familiarize a little more, since Alex and I drove together in the IMSA sports car a few years ago, I feel more comfortable driving what he does.

“At the same time, you tend to follow who is going faster. That's where good thing because you have a reference; bad thing sometimes it don't suit you. Having Simon [Pagenaud, MSR teammate], for example, in our side, what happen is he brings another information and it becomes a little bit confusing. So to find the identity and the sweet spot, as I mentioned before, when you don't have a lot of practice, becomes very, very challenging. Sometimes it's difficult to teach an old dog a new trick, right? You just got to really keep pushing and trying and find that sweet spot.

“But I have confidence enough, particularly as Andretti has not been this year that strong. They're showing great potential towards the end of the season, which is great. Some things we share, but sometimes we're just not able to get what they have. They've been very transparent, which is great. But we also need to do our own part…

“Everything is different for our team – first time a two-car car operation for Meyer Shank Racing. Simon is doing a great job. My guys, #06, incredible. All new guys compared to last year. A lot of people might not know that – all new group. We're all synchronized, as well. It's frustrating sometimes, but we have belief and trust in each other that we can make the result that we deserve.”

Castroneves it had been satisfying for he and Pagenaud to qualify on the second row at Detroit, fastest among the MSR-Andretti sextet.

“Absolutely!” he enthused, “that shows how we can do it. When you hit the right things, that's how we did it in Detroit. We know we can do it. That was a perfect execution from Meyer Shank Racing. We're looking to do another one like that. Unfortunately sometimes racing is so competitive that it's so hard to mimic the same thing.”

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