Back in January, Helio Castroneves walked into a room full of Verizon IndyCar Series media members. The first thing he told us was that he had just had a physical and his doctor told him he is as healthy as a 19-year-old. Sure, it prompted one of us to say, “Really, she said a 19-year-old?” just to get him to reply, “Yes! That’s what she said!”… because we are children. And because, let’s be honest… does that joke ever get old? No.
But regardless of our juvenile stunts and goofing around, the fact remained: Helio Castroneves has the physical health of someone half his age. That’s impressive in any right, but particularly when his prowess is in the premiere open-wheel series of North America. Racing an Indy car is not simple. It’s not just driving fast or just maintaining control. It’s all of that and so much more, that those of us who have never been behind the wheel in a ‘game time’ situation, with 20 other cars around could possibly fathom.
But even without the first hand knowledge, we respect it and we do our best to understand what these drivers have to do in order to perform at their peak. The g-forces that are placed on their bodies, the mental faculties they have to not only develop, but to some extent have to have been born with, is a level of multi-tasking hard to comprehend. Not to mention that even if they do have a moment of fear or anxiety, they need to be able to overcome those involuntary reactions with purposeful control and disregard. And they need to do it all simultaneously and in the matter of fractions of a second.
Helio Castroneves has made a career from honing these skills over the past 19 seasons. This is his 20th in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and he’s not holding on because he’s not ready to let go of some childhood ambition, he’s still here because he’s still fiercely competitive and giving ‘the kids’ a run for their money.
The Team Penske driver proved this again yesterday when he earned his 48th career pole position. This achievement keeps him at 4th on the All-Time Career Pole Winners list, and puts him only 1 more Verizon P1 Award away from tying the great Bobby Unser for 3rd of all time. When this was brought up to him during a post-qualifying press conference, Graham Rahal happened to be walking up on stage and joked, “Yep, that just means you’re getting old,” cueing laughter from the crowd. But Helio is as quick with his wit as he is with his car, and without hesitation rebutted, “…and still kicking ass!” which of course cued even louder laughter from the group on hand.
No one can argue with him either! Castroneves has 328 starts under his belt, and today’s start will tie him with Al Unser Jr. for 3rd All-Time. He also holds the 4th career All-Time Consecutive Starts position, today being number 195 behind fellow Brazilian and Indy 500 winner, Tony Kanaan who holds the record at 265, Jimmy Vasser with 211, and 4-time IndyCar Champion and Indy 500 Champ, Scott Dixon with 207. Helio won from the pole in Long Beach in 2001 and has managed the same feat 11 other times in his career.
With qualifying position being so important at a track like Long Beach, he could be poised to repeat that today, and add to his impressive tally.
The No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevy won’t be without competition though. As you’ve probably heard everyone down the grid say, IndyCar is without question, the most competitive form of motorsports in the world. It’s not an opinion, it’s a simple fact. The entire field (21 drivers from 9 teams and 2 engine manufacturers) was separated by a second yesterday and you can be certain that those speeds and that battle will play out on these southern California streets this afternoon.
Verizon IndyCar Series track times for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:
Sunday, April 9th:
Warm Up: 9:00 – 9:30 a.m. PT / 12:00 noon – 12:30 p.m. ET
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. PT / 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. ET
The Race will be broadcast on NBCSN.
The warm-up session will be livestreamed.
All links to livestream and IndyCar radio coverage is available here.