Helio Castroneves says that he admires Danica Patrick for not only opening doors for young girls who aim to become racers but also for having the courage to retire following this weekend’s 102nd running of the Indy 500.
The Team Penske-Chevrolet driver, who scored his third and most recent Indy win in 2009 – the year Patrick became the first female to finish in the top 3 at the 500 – says that he will make her final race difficult but that it is an “honor” to have raced against her.
Castroneves said: “Not enough people give enough credit to her. She's not only stayed away so many years from IndyCar and come back – not only to be in the race, but to [qualify] in the Fast Nine – it shows that she's an amazing talent.
“She opens so many doors for so many young ladies, young girls, to become a racecar driver. Especially now, the era of women power, they are equal [sic] to fight with the guys.
“I tell you what, in auto racing, it couldn't be more equal. She is the one that opened the door for them.”
The 42-year-old, who is now racing fulltime for Penske’s Acura sportscar program, then added: “Courageous for her, as well, making the decision to stop. I don't know if I have that courage to do it. Good for her.”
Patrick, who passed Castroneves in the closing stages of 2008’s Motegi 300 to become the first female IndyCar winner, will start seventh this Sunday, right alongside the Brazilian veteran.
He said: “I will try and make it as hard as I can, her last 500, but for sure it's an honor to be sharing the track with her all the years that I did.”