INDIANAPOLIS – With Wednesday’s announcement that Helio Castroneves won’t be returning for a full-time seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2018, it means his dreams of even winning a series championship are now over. The announcement stated that Castroneves will still be around in May and able to participate in the Indianapolis 500 as long as his heart desires, but racing on a full-time basis is done.
So, where does he stand in a legacy among INDYCAR greats?
Castroneves, has 30 wins, 50 poles, 41 runner-ups, 93 podiums and 140 top five finishes to his credit. Those rank, 12th, third, second, sixth and fifth all-time respectively. He also has three Indianapolis 500 victories to go along with four poles. So, where do stats like that rank him all-time when he doesn’t have a series championship to his credit?
See, in this day and age, everyone is ranked among championships. Fair or not, a quarterback in the NFL isn’t graded on how many regular season wins he has, or how many touchdown passes he throws, but rather how many Super Bowl rings has he accumulated. Same goes for the NBA. It’s not about how many points a player can score or how many wins he has to his credit, it’s about NBA Finals championships he’s won.
I can go on and on.
But, for me, I think Castroneves should be ranked among the top 10 greats to ever drive an INDYCAR.
First off, since he came to the United States and jumped in an Indy Lights car in 1996, he’s missed just one race since. In a sport where driving a car at speeds in excess of 200 mph and the result of a mistake is hitting a wall, it’s amazing that he was never injured.
That’s a feat in itself.
Plus, you have to count his off track popularity with Dancing With the Stars. Year in and year out, Castroneves is among the most popular drivers in the series. You can’t discredit his popularity.
Between the 344 career starts and what he’s done for the series as far as bringing eyeballs to it, he should be honored just for that alone. But, lets look at those stats too.
His 30 wins have him one victory shy of being in the top 10 in the career ranks. The only drivers ahead of him? A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Scott Dixon, Al Unser, Sebastien Bourdais, Bobby Unser, Al Unser Jr., Will Power, Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy.
What about those runner-ups? Only Mario Andretti (56) has more.
As far as career podiums go, only both Andretti’s (Mario 144, Michael 100), Foyt (119), Unser (98) and Dixon (96) have more than Castroneves’ 93. In regards to top five finishes, Mario 194, Foyt 149, Unser Jr. 141 and Unser Sr. 140 are the only drivers who have more.
Just Mario Andretti 67 and Foyt 53 have more there.
The three Indy 500 wins? Only three drivers have ever won four. Castroneves will have chances now to join them.
As far as not winning a championship? Castroneves has finished second in the standings four times. In fact, he’s came away with a top five in the final standings six straight years and 16 times in his 20 year career. In fact, he’s done so every year except one since 2000.
So, with those type of stats, Castroneves is certainly a top 10 driver of all-time in the series. Losing a driver like that on a full-time basis is a huge loss for the series.