CHAMPCAR/CART: Helio Castroneves interview transcript, part I

Part I T.E. McHale: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks to all of you for being with us this afternoon. Our guest this afternoon is driver Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske, who drove to victory Sunday in the 85th Indianapolis 500 ...

Part I

T.E. McHale: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks to all of you for being with us this afternoon.

Our guest this afternoon is driver Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske, who drove to victory Sunday in the 85th Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Good afternoon, Helio. Congratulations, and thanks for joining us today.

Helio Castroneves: Good afternoon. It's been a fantastic week, of course, but it's getting closer to another race, so we have to focus already and keep doing our work.

T.E. McHale: We'll give you an opportunity to talk about both those races over the course of the next half hour or so, I'm sure. Just some quick background before we get started.

Helio became the second consecutive rookie and the second consecutive CART driver to win the Indianapolis 500 following Juan Montoya in 2000. He averaged 153.601 miles per hour while leading Marlboro Team Penske to a one, two finish. His teammate, Gil de Ferran took runner-up honors. Helio led a race-high 52 laps and never relinquished the advantage after taking it on the 149th of 200 laps. His victory was the 11th Indy 500 for Team Penske and its first since Al Unser, Jr. won in 1994.

Now Helio sets his sights on this weekend's Miller Lite 225 at the Milwaukee Mile where he earned his first FedEx Championship series podium finish with a runner-up performance in 1998. Milwaukee also the site of Helio's first career FedEx Championship Series pole position in 1999.

Through four completed rounds of the 2001 Championship, Helio, driver of the No. 3 Marlboro Honda Reynard owns a victory from the pole at Long Beach and comes to Milwaukee off a runner-up performance at the pole two weeks ago in Japan. He has scored FedEx Championship Series points in 11 of his past 12 starts, dating to his victory at the Mid-Ohio of last year. Heading into this weekend's Miller Lite 225, Helio stands second in the FedEx Series Championship with 47 points, two behind leaner Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, who has 40.

The Miller Lite 225 Round 6 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series will air live on ABC TV on Sunday June 3rd, beginning at 4:00 PM Eastern time. With that, we will start taking questions.

You've obviously been making the rounds this week and on a pretty good emotional high here. How hard is it going to be to come back down and go to Milwaukee and just kind of get back to work?

Helio Castroneves: Well, it's just the way I've turned the page, and I'm leaving actually tomorrow morning to Milwaukee. I have no trouble with that. In fact, I already spoke with all the engineers. It's a great situation. It's a great feeling. Of course, it's a great race in the world, but, hey, we just have to keep continuing our job. And I'm really focused to this next one, especially that after Japan, finished second and figuring out a little bit about ovals.

So, basically, let's keep the momentum going. This is just helping the whole team, not only myself, but also the team, playing comfortable, they are confident. So, I am really focused and I am really looking forward to go back to Milwaukee. Like everybody know, the first pole position, my first pole podium and I hope we do well there.

Could you talk about what you have been doing since you left Indianapolis on Sunday or Monday?

Helio Castroneves: After, I did, yeah, the photo shoot, the typical photo shoot with the car and the trophy. I went to a lot of the TV shows, CNN Sports on Monday, and then Tuesday I have fox in the morning, and then I went to meet chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and then I went to meet Donald Trump. Also, I went to Bloomberg and Charlie Rose, also I pitched the baseball game, ball on the Mets game. And this morning, I went to Regis & Kelly. Now I'm here with you guys, and, well, just keeps going and going. It's been a fantastic week. A lot of press. A lot of news, lunch with all the New York press. So, I've been having a good time. Of course, it's tiring, but, hey, I really was looking for this.

Congratulations. Talk a little bit your mindset during the race, as opposed, to say, some other races that you've won. I mean, how did you look back on it, did you pace yourself even better than you expected?

Helio Castroneves: First of all, thank you very much. Actually, since I went there to that racetrack, I knew it would be a big challenge. But, I mean, if you notice, we are not actually -- especially myself, I was really focused on the CART series and trying to make sure that we do everything exactly and making -- scoring points, because any point in our series, any point is very important.

After coming back from Nazareth, after the race, going straight to the racetrack, you see all of the team efforts. Everybody is really trying hard, and coming back, going to Japan, coming back and then staying there. So, I tell you, it was very tiring, but not tiring driving the car, but most of it was traveling. Every time that I was in the car, as soon as I close my visor, I don't think about anything else and just do a good performance and trying to find a limit of the car.

So, when I went to the race, no doubt about what was a great feeling to be there. But, as soon as the race started, I was pretty much normal, same as the other races. 500 miles -- I've been in a 500-mile situation, except that I haven't been on that track, specific track. But I was able to proceed, and basically like I said, I got a lot of information, and make sure that I understand. I had no trouble.

So far, like I said, I'm really enjoying a lot what I'm doing, and well, tomorrow come back to the normal life. I mean, I'm still normal life, for me. Just talking to the press, with you guys and just more than usual, but other than that, I'm still the same guy and I pretend to be like that.

As a follow-up, you were talking about a normal life, once you've won an Indy, that's something that you become identified with; so in a sense it is not normal. Has anyone kind of prepared you for how things might change for you now, how you might be looked at, especially joining an elite group like that?

Helio Castroneves:  The only thing that's strange is I'm getting a
much better  -- easy dates right now.

No, I'm okay. I like -- I've always been like this. I believe my personality always been this way. Like I said, the only difference I felt is some guys, more than everybody, gives me a congratulations because it's a difficult race. I don't feel any other special treatment or seeing -- like going in the street and people stopping me and asking me for autographs. I don't think -- maybe in Brazil, I'm not sure yet, waiting to see. But right now, like I said, until today, I'm still celebrating, but tomorrow we are going to start the weekend to Milwaukee and focus on our championship now.

I realize you are coming off the biggest win of your life, but could you talk a little about winning at Detroit last year?

Helio Castroneves: Oh, my goodness. Thank you very much, first of all. But Detroit is going to be an unforgettable one. Especially, first, because it was my first one and I was so excited, and I think everybody saw.

Second, I mean, it started the real spiderman; climbing the fence and doing all these things. I tell you, it's just a great feeling. Detroit start everything. It was my beginning, like in terms of winning, and I just -- it's difficult to compare. You know, it's different race. Indianapolis 500, it is a huge race, but it is my first one. Maybe if I'd been trying a long time, it would be more a great feeling. I cannot forget the first one, of course. Detroit was one of my special one and it's going to always be in my heart.

Just talk about -- now you and Gil came on last year, Penske had had a couple of years of troubles and since then, obviously Gil won the championship and you have four wins CART wins and now you've also got an Indy 500 win. Just talk about the combination about how you and Gil and then Team Penske, how it has brought Penske out of the doldrums and jump-started both of your engineers?

Helio Castroneves: First, the good thing is a good relationship between drivers, I believe. Gil and I, we are Brazilian, and even -- get even better, the relationship, because we can speak in our natural language, but only outside of the truck. In the truck, we have to speak in Portuguese -- in English.

I think not only that, the whole team actually, it's been renovated. You know, everybody is like being really focused. Nobody -- everybody forgot about what's in the past and they notice the situation, which is really tough. And everyone wasn't expect -- like we know the race. Just we go and we work and after we do a good job, we just keep improving.

No doubt about last year; that's what happened.  Both car was going
well.  Unfortunately, I didn't have many opportunity.  My car breaks; was
broke sometimes.  This is just racing, and Gil got better points, especially
on the oval.  I believe everybody deserve it.  Last year, in fact, Roger
told me:  You guys did a good job, both are champions, here this year.

I'm glad that we work together, because both cars are always going to be on the top.

But no doubt about Roger Penske, the captain of this boat, to put this organization together with Cindric, and also, my engineer, Andy Borme, has done a good job. He knows me very well. Basically, help everyone.

So the communication, I think, is the key of the team and that's why we are doing good.

You eluded to your success at Milwaukee. Is there anything about Milwaukee you particularly enjoy? How do you explain the success you've had there in the past?

Helio Castroneves:   I do love short ovals.  I really like it, like
Nazareth and also Milwaukee, both are track  -- really short, also Chicago.
I really enjoy.  I think it is really challenging and very difficult.  And I
like when it's difficult.  Make my job look easier, you know.


Part II >

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Kenny Brack , Al Unser Sr. , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske