Castroneves Transitioning From Indy Cars To Sports Cars In 2018

Helio Castroneves looks down pit lane. [Photo by: Chris Jones]

Helio Castroneves looks down pit lane. [Photo by: Chris Jones]

by Joe Jennings

Team Penske confirmed that which has been long rumored that Verizon IndyCar Series star Helio Castroneves will transition to a full-time commitment with the legendary team’s new Acura Team Penske program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship starting with the 2018 season.

Castroneves and an unannounced driver will pair with Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron in a two-car program racing Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International (DPi) entries.

In addition, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner will compete for Team Penske once again in the 2018 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, in search of his fourth victory in the famed race.

According to team owner Roger Penske, the sports car program has been on the drawing board for a year or two but has only come together recently. “At the beginning of 2016, I sat down with Helio and talked about his future, the future of the team and we talked about that there was a potential for a sports car program, and he would be someone we would consider running in the program based on his availability and interest,” said Penske during the announcement press conference.

“To me this gives Helio a longer future in his racing career,” Penske added. “He’s been with us as the longest tenured driver, and I think the fact that he gets to go back to the Indy 500 again gives him a chance to keep his foot in the door in IndyCar represents a good opportunity for him.”

Penske went on to say that Castroneves will also run in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis earlier in May.

The famed car owner also confirmed that his team will field just three cars in IndyCar in 2018 except for the fourth car for Castroneves at Indianapolis. Montoya is not included in Penske’s Indianapolis plans, and that the former winner is free to go elsewhere should he wish to pursue another ride at Indianapolis.

Not surprisingly, resources, staffing and sponsorship heavily influence decisions by the Penske organization.

Castroneves seemed thrilled to be included in the start-up of the sports-car program and of being included in the team’s Indianapolis 500 plans. “When we sat down to talk, Roger gave me an option (as to) what I wanted to do, same as he did several years ago when we decided to go from Champ Car to the IRL.

“I am looking forward to keep driving and excited to be working with Honda again,” said the personable driver with enthusiasm in his voice. “Driving is my passion, it’s in my blood and if this can prolong my career, I am all for it.”

Penske noted that not only are the on-track accomplishments of Castroneves important to the team but his behind-the-scene efforts while working with sponsors and business partners have paid huge dividends for the team.

Everyone realizes the sports car program will be a challenge, but the team seems to groove on challenges. And by bringing the best drivers together and by mixing in an all-star staff, they have built a solid foundation for a successful run – for victories and championships.

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