Winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an accomplishment that keeps on giving, and in his first race weekend back at the Racing Capital of the World since winning his record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 in May, Helio Castroneves found that to be especially true.
Even before he hit the racetrack.
On Friday morning, it was announced Castroneves will enter the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America as a member of the Class of 2022 in his first year on the ballot. Castroneves was voted in as the Open Wheel representative by a 200-member panel alongside classmates Peter Brock, Dick LaHaie, Banjo Matthews, Denise McCluggage, Raymond Parks, Jack Roush, Terry Vance and Byron Hines.
The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is a Daytona Beach, Florida-based organization that honors every form of motorsport in the United States, from INDYCAR to NASCAR, motorcycles, drag racing, airplanes, boats and more.
“It’s amazing,” Castroneves said. “All of my career watching so many inductees and being at all these amazing events, especially when I was doing the sports car program, as well, I could only imagine (this). I was just dreaming that one day I would be able to make it. Again, that’s just proof that dreams come true. It’s just the cherry on top to winning the Indy 500, so we celebrate even better.”
Castroneves was joined at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America announcement by IMS President J. Douglas Boles, IMS Chairman Roger Penske and longtime motorsports reporter Robin Miller, among others.
Miller, a member of the Class of 2021, was honored alongside Castroneves and presented with the Heroes of Horsepower Trophy, which goes to the at-large or media member of any given class, for his decades-long contribution to INDYCAR.
Castroneves’ honor Friday came after the Meyer Shank Racing driver was welcomed back to Indianapolis with a “happy hour” celebration with race fans outside the famed Gate 1 Thursday night.
The 31-time INDYCAR SERIES winner was greeted by dozens of race fans who cheered his name and clamored for autographs. Boles and Penske welcomed Castroneves on stage to unveil the Brickyard Weekend event program cover designed by artist Audynn Newman.
They spoke of the significance of his Indy 500 win on May 30, with Penske admitting he was teary-eyed when Castroneves crossed the Yard of Bricks to mark his historic win.
At the event, Castroneves was presented with a bronze brick that immortalizes his place in Indy 500 history. The brick is a mold of one of the original 3.2 million paving bricks that once served as the surface of the Racing Capital of the World. The brick, created by IMS Facilities Weld Shop Foreman and bronze artist Bud Tucker, features Castroneves’ name and each of the four years he won the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves, 46, gets to keep the brick he was presented Thursday night, while another will be permanently placed in the famed Yard of Bricks on the IMS main straightaway alongside the race’s other four-time winners: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.
It’s a new way for the Speedway to honor its most historic drivers, and for Castroneves it was an impactful moment as he begins to realize the lasting legacy he has created at IMS.
“This place, it is incredible,” Castroneves said. “Not only because of the history of the place and the way the place is, but also because of the fans. (Thursday) night was special when I got the bronze brick, which is another piece of history for me and for the Speedway. I’m just so blessed. People ask me if I feel as if I was a legend, and I say no, I feel like I’m a blessed person.”
Castroneves’ return to IMS after becoming one of the most historic drivers in the 110-year history of the Speedway was always going to be special, but the events of Thursday and Friday were a proper welcome back before he even hits the racetrack for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race this weekend.
Castroneves is driving the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda in the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN), one of three races at IMS this weekend as a part of the INDYCAR-NASCAR tripleheader weekend on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.
It’s the second race in a stretch of six to end the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. After this weekend, Castroneves will be in the final three races of the season – in September at Portland, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Long Beach – moving forward as he prepares for a return to full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition in 2022 for Meyer Shank Racing.
“The motivation has always been there,” Castroneves said. “It’s not about the title that makes me go here. I wouldn’t be putting on a helmet if I didn’t think that I had a chance to succeed. What also motivates me is the opportunity with an incredible team at Meyer Shank Racing and another great possibility to be among the big teams.
“It’s so hard and so competitive these days that you’ve got to work extremely hard. That keeps me motivated. I have quite the reasons for motivation, I must say, but the main thing is I want to continue to achieve my goals. That’s why I work hard, and that’s why this preparation for these next four races is so important for me so that I am ready and get ready for the competition (in 2022).”