Fresh off a record-tying fourth victory in the Indianapolis 500, Helio Castroneves is ready to embark on the inaugural season of the Camping World SRX Series.
Castroneves joined elite racing company with his fourth win in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” adding his name to a list that previously only included A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Sr. and Rick Mears. Even a week later, Castroneves is still riding the high from the monumental victory.
“It was an incredible part of history we were able to make last Sunday,” said Castroneves. “I’m just so thrilled to be that guy to be able to make that happen.
“There were ups and downs, every time we see friends and talking to the press. I’m super happy, of course. I dreamed about it. I just have to get more dreams now, and start dreaming bigger again.”
Now, Castroneves is two-for-two in competition this year, as he was also part of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 team which won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. However, it will be a brand new challenge for Castroneves when he tries to keep that streak alive this Saturday at Stafford Motor Speedway in the inaugural Camping World SRX Series event.
I need to keep up the score! Otherwise, I’ll be in trouble. They say, ‘You’re a veteran, you can do it.’ I’m a veteran, but this will be the first time I’m running these kind of cars and types of tracks.
After making headlines at one of the largest and grandest motorsport venues in the country, Castroneves will spend the next six weekends on short tracks across the United States, including a pair of dirt tracks in the form of Eldora Speedway and Knoxville Raceway. How long has it been since Castroneves raced on dirt?
“In terms of dirt the last time I was on dirt was when I was 12 years old on BMX playing in my hometown. It will be interesting, for sure, but at the end of the day, I’m going to learn from those champions. I’m sure we’re going to have some bent fenders here and there, but it will be a lot of fun.”
Whether it’s on dirt or pavement, Castroneves knows he’s taking on a unique experience competing with SRX this summer. Even as a past competitor in the International Race of Champions (IROC), the short tracks will give this series a different feel in his eyes.
Castroneves competed in IROC from 2002 to 2005, finishing as high as fourth in points in 2002 after concluding that season with a pair of podium finishes.
“Look, it’s a completely different style. I believe having the dirt tracks might level the playing field. It’s not like the IROC in the past, the NASCAR drivers had a big advantage, because they weren’t just running at the same track, but it was a similar style of racing with the drafting.
“Nobody knows about this car because it’s a brand new car. The people at SRX did an amazing job. They’re putting a lot of time and effort behind that. There is no habit for anyone. It’ll be brand-new to everyone. I just want to see how it’s going to happen. I’m excited. I’m ready to learn.”
Castroneves expects fans to be entertained by the star power in the Camping World SRX Series, especially in the heat of competition.
They’re going to see great champions. You’ve probably seen them racing once in the past. We’ll also have the young generation competing with them, and it’s going to be fun. Even though we’re friends and we relax a little bit, once you put the helmet on, trust me, there is no friendship. We’re going to go for it. That’s where you’re going to see the real racing.
Of course, Castroneves hopes he will be able to continue his impressive 2021 with a win in SRX, perhaps at that very first event at Stafford to keep his winning streak alive. However, the unknowns surrounding the cars has even his signature catchfence climbing celebration in question.
“I need to see how to get out of the car first,” said Castroneves with a laugh. “It was a hard time getting out [of the IndyCar] with the aero screen. If it’s too hard, I don’t know. That’s a good problem to think about.”
The inaugural Camping World SRX Series season begins Saturday at Stafford Motor Speedway at 8 p.m. ET, televised on the CBS Television Network and streamed on Paramount+. Joining Castroneves will be an all-star cast of drivers including Tony Stewart, Bill Elliott, Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Willy T. Ribbs, Ernie Francis, Jr., Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Camping World SRX Series Twitter