Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves won’t let his frightening wreck during an Indianapolis 500 practice earlier this month upset him.
Remember it, yes; unsettle him, no.
Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the three-time 500 winner said he felt “damn good” for Sunday’s 99th Indianapolis 500 – just a week after flying upside down in his No. 3 Chevy/Dallara after hitting the wall and sailing into the air.
Castroneves’ accident was followed by Ed Carpenter’s eerily similar crash Sunday and then James Hinchcliffe’s terrible practice shunt Monday in which he suffered a broken left femur and almost bled to death.
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The new speedway aero-kit package for the Verizon IndyCar Series is under scrutiny following the trio of mishaps, but Castroneves, who finished second in the 500 to Ryan Hunter-Reay in a thrilling finish in 2014, isn’t fazed.
“I’m confident, I’m comfortable – you guys just got to believe it because I believe it,” Castroneves said after being questioned for the umpteenth time if he was worried about climbing into the cockpit on Sunday in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Castroneves didn’t say he had erased the incident of hurtling down the track wrong side up from his mind, just that he has dealt with it and moved on.
“It’s just natural to think about it, you can’t forget it,” admitted Castroneves, who will start fifth in Sunday’s race for Roger Penske. “But I’m thinking about what strategy I’m going to use in the race a whole lot more. I’m consumed with that.”
Castroneves isn’t blaming anyone for the crash, which has Chevrolet and Honda engineers scampering about looking at the possible cause.
“I pushed it to the limit (and) went over the limit without knowing it,” said Castroneves, who'll travel to the Motor City after the 500 to compete in next weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix duals. “I don’t think it’s the aero kit that is making the car fly – it’s a combination of other things, in my opinion. I’m not an engineer of course.”
Castroneves is an exceptional race car driver, who went within a whisker last year of joining A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500.
Hunter-Reay’s bold pass in Turn 3 on the last lap of the race last year thwarted Castroneves bid.
It hasn’t weakened his spirit.
Asked what he might feel like if he can win on Sunday, Castroneves broke into a smile.
“That will be answered after the race,” he grinned. “You can only imagine, only speculate … about it.
“When I do that, I don’t think words will be enough. I hope I'll be able to answer you after the race about how I feel.”
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