How much better could things get for Helio Castroneves?
Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Castroneves claimed his fourth Indianapolis 500 pole and his second consecutive one.
Not only was Castroneves’ 227.970 four-lap average the fastest of the day, it was the fastest of the month. He turned two laps over 228 miles-per-hour. “Oh please just let me finish this run,” he thought to himself while hanging it all out to claim the $175,000 PEAK Performance Pole Award prize money.
It was a record-setting 16th pole for team owner Roger Penske.
He was the first one out at 4:30 p.m. and outlasted the other eight drivers vying for the coveted position.
“Sitting there in that car for one and a half hours was not easy. Are we going to go? Are we not going to go? I can’t take that kind of pressure,” Castroneves said.
He went out one additional time during that 90-minute cycle, but was unaware that his current time would still stand.
“I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t know my time would stand,” Castroneves said.
All drivers battling in the top nine, found the format taxing, but great for the fans. Castroneves agreed it was mentally and physically demanding.
“This place is very tough,” he said. “Sometimes today it wasn’t fun. But sometimes you do what you got to do.”
Castroneves has led a storied life recently. One year ago to the day, his girlfriend Daniela found out she was pregnant. Saturday, his daughter Mikaella joined them in the celebration.
“Having a baby it gives you more enthusiasm, more adrenaline for you to go out and hopefully make my daughter feel proud of her dad,” he said.
The three-time 500 winner joins an elite club as one of only three drivers in Indy 500 history to win four poles. Rex Mays and A.J. Foyt each won four. Only Rick Mears has more, winning six to go with his four Indy 500 titles.
By finishing in the top slot in session one of qualifying, Castroneves earned the number one pit selection.
“The pay day is on race day and having the first pit certainly helps,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Castroneves sat in the second position, but withdrew that time.
“At one point I was thinking to myself. Are we incredibly stupid or are we incredibly smart? It turned out to be a good one. My team said I had to do it, and I had to go.”
Castroneves just turned 35 May 10th, but has no plans for retirement.
“I’m actually full of energy. I’m still pretty much having a lot of fun,” he said.
He asked Mears when he first came to Team Penske how did he know when it was time to quit. Mears told him “when the fire inside goes away.”
After his tumultuous year of a court battle for tax fraud, which ended with his acquittal, Castroneves feels great.
“Somehow, after last year, I’m burning myself here. I’m just ecstatic to be back at Indy again,” he added.
Last year Castroneves won the pole, and the pit stop competition prior to winning the race. He is ready.
“Now we got to go for 500 miles,” he said.
A few weeks ago Ana Beatriz was still waiting on confirmation of a ride for her first Indianapolis 500. A few weeks later, she is the fastest rookie in the field. “I wouldn’t imagine being the fastest female, but what really catches me here is being the fastest rookie.”
Beatriz made two runs Saturday in her Dreyer and Reinbold entry, the second after getting bumped from the 24-car first-day field. Her second four-lap average at 224.243 was over a half mile faster than the first.
The 24-year-old Brazilian will start outside of row seven. She made her IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the Sao Paulo Indy 300 in Brazil where she finished 13th.
How much better could things get for Helio Castroneves?
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