Helio Castroneves doesn’t want 2018 to be his final Indianapolis 500.
A three-time winner of the Indy 500, Castroneves crashed out of Sunday’s race while running in the top five on lap 146. Like many of the accidents before his, Castroneves’ car simply snapped around on him and he slammed into the wall.
Castroneves, 43, is trying to be the fourth driver to win four Indianapolis 500s and returned to Indianapolis in 2018 as a part-time driver. Castroneves has driven for Team Penske since 2000 and the team moved him full-time from the IndyCar Series to its new sports car team in IMSA after the 2017 season.
The deal included a ride in the Indianapolis Grand Prix and Sunday’s 500 but nothing guaranteed in 2019 or beyond. Castroneves looked into the camera after his crash and had a simple request for team owner Roger Penske.
“Please Roger, I’ve got to go back,” Castroneves said.
Penske certainly seemed amenable to the idea when he was approached by ABC after Castroneves’ interview.
“We’ll certainly take a good look at that for sure,” Penske said. Penske was in Castroneves’ pit box as his strategist on Sunday.
Castroneves won the 2001 and 2002 Indy 500s — his first two starts at the track. He got his third win in 2009 but has gone winless since. He was second in 2014 and second to Takuma Sato in 2017 and has finished in the top 10 in six races since his last win. No matter if he gets a fourth win or not and joins A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers with four Indy 500 wins, he’s one of the best drivers in 500 history.
Castroneves, the first IndyCar driver to appear on Dancing With the Stars, is one of the few remaining IndyCar drivers with mainstream appeal. A fourth Indy 500 win would not only resonate with hardcore open-wheel fans but also casual fans who hardly know the sport exists outside of Memorial Day weekend.
It would behoove the IndyCar Series if Castroneves had a ride at Indy for as long as he was competitive and wanted to keep driving. We’ll see if Penske or someone else makes it happen in 2019.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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