There’s no doubt about it, Helio Castroneves will go down as one of the best Verizon IndyCar Series drivers in the history of the sport. He’s not quite to the level of A.J. Foyt, Mario and Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr. and Sr. but he’s close to the top of the next class. Castroneves has 29 career victories as that ranks as a tie for 12th with his teammate Will Power and his mentor Rick Mears. His 47 career poles rank his fourth all-time behind Mario, Foyt and Bobby Unser. He’s only seven more poles away from passing Foyt for second all-time.
Add to the fact that three of his 29 career wins are in the Indy 500 and four ‘500 poles to his credit too, and you can see why his resume would put him among the all-time greats.
But, the only thing holding him back right now – a championship.
Castroneves, 41, has driven on a full-time basis since 1998 and has been with Team Penske since 2000. But, despite all those accolades, he has yet to win a season championship. He’s been close though with four runner-up finishes in the final standings (2002, 2008, 2013, 2014) but he’s never hoisted the championship trophy after the season finale.
The popular Brazilian has had four straight top five finishes in the final standings though including three top threes in the last four years. He’s also finished worse than sixth in the final standings just once since 2002 (11th in 2011) as that and a seventh place effort in the final standings in 2000 were his two worst seasons since he joined Penske 17 years ago.
Now, he’s hoping 2017 will be the year that he can add another accolade to his resume – his first championship. He’s got a very realistic shot at doing so too, as he’s driving a Chevrolet powered car, one that has won 44 of the 50 races the last three years (88-percent). Chevy cars won 14 of the 16 races just last year and dominated the points standings in taking eight of the top nine spots. They also led 71-percent of the overall laps in 2016 with leading 1,467 of the 2,070 total circuits.
With an aerokit freeze this offseason, development and upgrades were pushed to a halt. So, Honda teams won’t be able to close that gap by much, if at all in 2017, and also add to the fact that Penske’s main competition for victories and championships Chip Ganassi Racing switched to Honda for the upcoming year, then you can see why Penske is groomed for a dominating season again in 2017.
Helio, hopes he can contend more with his teammates and top them when it’s all said and done en route for his first title. He knows his time is running out as the youth movement is starting to take shape. This is a great year for him to do so.