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INDIANAPOLIS – NBC Sports.com asked Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske if three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves would return to the team in 2020.
Penske immediately brushed off the question.
“We’re not going to talk about that right now,” Penske told NBC Sports.com. “I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re going to have a meeting about it before we decide, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.
“Simon won the race, and that is what I’m focused on right now.”
Simon Pagenaud gave Penske a record-extending 18thIndy 500 win on Sunday. Penske confirmed that Pagenaud will be back with the team in 2020 after he scored his first win in Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.
Castroneves was an NTT IndyCar Series regular at Team Penske from 2000 until the 2017 season. Castroneves since has shifted to the team’s Acura IMSA Sports Car program, but the three-time Indy 500 winner was given a Penske ride for the Indy 500 the past two years.
The popular driver from Brazil is trying to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as a four-time Indy 500 winner.
But the whispers in Gasoline Alley indicated his Indy 500 future with Team Penske at Indy remains uncertain.
“I’ve heard the rumors, too,” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com on pit lane after a disappointing 18th-place finish in the Indy 500. “I will definitely give it a good, hard think about coming back in 2020. I want to be the rest of the season, here.”
But, will Castroneves run the Indy 500 again?
“Who knows?” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com. “Let’s see what happens.”
Castroneves’s bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 was derailed in a pit road incident on Lap 30 when he ran into James Davison’s Chevrolet after his first stop.
The front wing of Castroneves’s Chevrolet was damaged, and IndyCar officials issued him a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. Castroneves dropped three laps down but finished one lap down.
“The accident that happened in the pits hurt us for sure,” Castroneves explained. “We had a problem with the fuel mapping, and I couldn’t go over 200 miles an hour for four or five laps. We lost 35 seconds. There was a bug in the system.
“Then, we went back out, and that was it. I wasn’t able to recoup after that. I was excited. The car was very, very good entering the race.”
Castroneves also spoke with second-place finisher Alexander Rossi, who was furious with Castroneves for seemingly holding him up while three laps down.
The two drivers hugged, and Castroneves walked back up pit lane.
“I did what the team told me to do, and they told me to go as fast as I could,” Castroneves explained after talking to Rossi. “It’s racing, and everybody is upset they didn’t win.”
Castroneves hoped his walk through pit lane is not the final time as an Indy 500 competitor.
But it could be.
“I hope I can come back next year,” Castroneves said. “I’m really upset as a competitor, but extremely happy for Team Penske and for Simon Pagenaud for winning the race.
“The good news is I go back to the Acura sports car, but I will be dreaming about coming back here again.”