IZOD IndyCar Series drivers review their 2012 season. Today, Team Penske's Helio Castroneves weighs in.
Wow, guys, what a memorable 2012 IZOD IndyCar season.
It could not have started out any better for me and the No. 3 Team Penske boys. To open the year with a win at St. Pete, in Dan Wheldon’s back yard, was really special and very emotional. I said it then, and I will say it again, I had no idea I was climbing the fence right by the sign for Dan Wheldon Way. There was just something telling me I needed to get out of the car there. Once I got up on the fence and saw the sign, my emotions just went crazy remembering Dan and what he meant to all of us and that is a moment I will never forget.
The goal going into this past year for me was to be a more consistent driver and, of course, to get back to Victory Circle. I guess we can check the box on both of those. I didn’t know it until we were going into the last race at Fontana, but we ended up completing the most laps of anyone – and we only fell three short of completing every lap in the season. To me, that’s great consistency. That was really important because I felt that is what prevented us from being competitive in 2011, too many missed chances.
But the wins are what I will remember the most when looking back at this season. St. Pete was also a great win for me because my little girl, Mikaella, was there to see it. I want her to be able to see and remember me as a driver, and especially a winning one. She’s getting older now, she really likes playing with cars and she loves coming to the races so it’s important for me to have her share in these special memories. That one certainly was special.
Winning at Edmonton was memorable because of the battle I had to the end. Those last laps were a real fight to hold off (Takuma) Sato and I knew that Will (Power) was flying up behind us as well. That win also moved me into 12th all-time in career wins, tied with Johnny Rutherford with 27. As exciting as it is to move up the rankings, it also means something else: I’m getting old. And after competing in another season of “Dancing With The Stars” and seeing how my body responded, I can tell you for sure that is the case. But I can also tell you that my competitive fire is just as strong as it ever was and I know we can still get the job done.
Hopefully, that’s something else that became clear this past season.
I was really proud of what my guys on the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet were able to accomplish this year. They did a great job all season, completing the most laps proves that, and they gave me a car that could consistently run up front. I even finished sixth at Toronto – a place that has always been tough for me, can you believe that? I couldn’t have done it without all of their hard work.
I also want to thank our sponsors Shell and Pennzoil, AAA and the Auto Club of Southern California as well as Penske Truck Rental and everyone at Chevy and Ilmor Engineering. It was my pleasure to represent you guys all season.
After the finale, we gave it another shot on “Dancing with the Stars.” It was a lot of fun and I’m so glad they asked me back for the All-Star season. My partner, Chelsie (Hightower) and I came up a little bit short, but what a great experience to take out my dancing shoes again. Thanks for all of your votes, by the way.
So what’s next? Well I know for sure we are going to keep hunting for a championship and a fourth Indianapolis 500 victory. It was a lot of fun to be in the title chase for the entire season again. That is certainly where we expect to be every year. And going after number four at Indy – what an honor that would be to join the greats like my mentor Rick Mears. It would be a dream come true.
So goodbye for now, but the season opener in St. Pete will be here before you know it. I hope everyone enjoys the off-season and the holidays and we’ll see you soon.
Season in a nutshell
Average start: 9.8
Average finish: 7.4
Best qualifying: First (Barber Motorsports Park)
Best finish: First (St. Petersburg, Edmonton)
Was running at the finish in 14 of the 15 races. ... Victory at St. Pete was his first since Motegi in 2010. ... Had three consecutive sixth-place finishes followed by Edmonton win. ... Finished season at Auto Club Speedway with 12th top-10 finish -- most of any drive in 2012. ...Is the active leader in laps led (4,733) in his Indy car career since 1998.