INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 6, 2008) - Helio Castroneves sums up the Indianapolis 500 with one word.
Castroneves and teammate Ryan Briscoe began Team Penske’s 35th participation in the famous race this Tuesday as practice opened for the 92nd running of the Indy 500. Team Penske has won the event a record 14 times, and Castroneves has two of those victories, in 2001 and 2002.
“Every time I come here, it's special,” Castroneves said. “I just see the positive things about the whole situation in IndyCar racing. We're looking very strong for this year and we're going to have a great race, hopefully.”
Castroneves’ enthusiasm stems from past and present. Aside from the two wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has won the pole twice, has finished on the podium four times, has led 162 laps and has won more than $5 million. And he currently leads the IndyCar Series standings after the first four races of the season.
“To see that the entire organization trying to keep everybody together is great,“ Castroneves said. “That's great because I only see us moving forward. I know we're going to actually win a lot of races this year.”
This time, he’s got a new teammate, a quiet yet confident Australian who is strong on experience and advancing rapidly with his new team.
“I really feel I've got the whole team behind me,” Briscoe said. “Helio has made me feel welcome on the team, and we've been working great together. So a lot of the work is very focused on the job, and a lot of the time you forget about the pressures and what's involved with it. But I understand the importance of the role, and it's definitely a very good feeling inside to have this ride.”
The ride is the No. 6 Team Penske Honda/Dallara driven the previous four years by Sam Hornish Jr., who’s now with Penske Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series team. Hornish won the Indy 500 in 2006, giving Roger Penske’s team its 14th victory in the famous race.
Both Castroneves and Briscoe benefit from the experience of a team that has been racing for 43 years. Briscoe already has experience running Indy as part of the Penske operation, having finished fifth last year at Indy for Luczo Dragon Racing, owned by Jay Penske, Roger’s son, and having driven for Penske Racing’s American Le Mans Series team.
“Our preparation going into this is the same every year,” said Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing. “It's making sure that that we're organized. We're going in there with a different lineup with Ryan coming on board, but at the same time we spent a lot of time last year with him. He knows for the most part how we approach it. But last year he had the opportunity to maybe sit back a little bit out of the pressure cooker that he lives in most of the time, and this year he will be part of it.”
Daily practice continues this week, culminating with pole qualifying Saturday, May 10th. The race is set for May 25 at 1 p.m. ET.