Roger Penske says he would like to provide an Indianapolis 500 entry for Helio Castroneves when the three-time winner retires from full-time IndyCar racing.
Penske, for whom Castroneves has scored all three of his “500” wins, said that Team Penske as a whole wants the Brazilian to add a fourth win to the accolade he achieved in 2001, ’02 and ’09.
“Helio is hungry for it and so are we for his sake,” said Penske. “Right now we don’t have a plan where we wouldn’t run him every race. We have four good cars, good sponsors for each and four good drivers.
“But if the rules were such that Helio wasn’t running a full season, if we had the funding, I would definitely run him at Indy. That race is different, and he has a great deal of experience….
“You saw in 2014, the lap before the end he was leading and the one he needed to lead he didn’t… But it was that close. And then last year it was my fault. We changed the car to make it faster and we went slower; we went in the wrong direction."
However, Penske added that he saw no downturn in the performance of either Castroneves nor Juan Pablo Montoya, who both turn 41 this year.
“I’ve got the Grandfathers Club with Helio and Juan, right?!” chuckled Penske. “But I see them both out there and they still want it.
“There’s no tougher guy on the race track than Montoya. If there’s a car ahead of him, he’s going to figure out how to pass it. And Helio, if you listen to him on the radio or in his debriefs, he’s still into it. The day he wasn’t like that, I would tell him to do something else.”
Optimistic for the 100th Indy 500
Penske admitted that Montoya scoring the 16th Indy 500 victory for Team Penske last year had been more than just a consolation prize for missing out on the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
“We won Indy, and if you win that, I can probably take that and nothing else, to be honest with you,” said Penske. “But through the season we earned 11 poles and didn’t convert them enough. With the way the pits are closed under caution and so on, circumstances went against us a few times, but…we need to do a much better job than we did last year.”
In light of his views of the “500” being the main prize in IndyCar, Penske said the team had put a lot of focus on the 100th running of the race.
“I don’t want to say it’s everything, but we’ve been working for months on those cars we’re taking to Indy,” he stated.
“With the four drivers we’ve got, the team’s going to be strong. And consistency is very important. We’ve got the same drivers, same crew chiefs, same engineering people, and there’s real good cross-pollenation.
“One thing we’ve done over the years is make sure there’s nothing secret between the cars; in fact, if one car is better than another, we want to know if it’s the car, the driver, the setup. So our focus will be on the 500, without question."
Penske went on: “Indy is about not making mistakes. That race is probably easier to drive than some short ovals like Phoenix. But it’s a long race and you’ve got to know when to be there at the front.”