Helio Castroneves has a way of putting his own unique twist on everything, just like he did with this year’s fan and media engagement tour after winning the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday.
Winning the Indianapolis 500 comes with a lifetime of accomplishment and an immortal legacy at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But it also comes with hours of media commitments, photo shoots and appearances in the hours following the race.
On Monday, Castroneves took a detour on his commitments, taking the word “engagement” to a whole new level. Almost exactly 24 hours after he crossed the Yard of Bricks and tied A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears for the most wins in Indianapolis 500 history with four, Castroneves was in a local Indianapolis neighborhood greeting one of his most passionate race fans.
Jameson Terzini was paid a special visit last Saturday during the 500 Spectacle of Homes reverse parade from Castroneves. Terzini is a massive fan of the Meyer Shank Racing driver, and he had a mannequin dressed in a red and white firesuit with a helmet on, climbing his porch in honor of Castroneves’ signature fence climb.
Castroneves was amazed at the sight on Saturday, and he told Terzini that if he won the Indy 500 he would pay him another visit. Castroneves is a man of his word.
“A promise is a promise,” Castroneves, 46, said. “I told him if I win I would come back. I just want to make sure that I did what I said I was going to do. I meant it because it has been so difficult for everyone to get out of their homes, and yesterday was an impressive day having all the fans. This was the least I could do, and I’m so honored to have fans like this.”
This was a rare occurrence in what is normally a very tight schedule for the Indianapolis 500 winner following the 500-Mile Race, but when you have fans and a driver like this, it’s different.
From the moment the checkered flag falls Sunday afternoon, the winner’s schedule for the next 24+ hours has been made. First stop: arrive at Victory Podium to be hoisted in the air for thousands of fans to see. That’s where Castroneves’ post-race celebration took its first detour.
Instead of celebrating in front of the 135,000 fans in attendance, the four-time Indy 500 winner wanted to celebrate with the fans. He performed his signature fence climb as race fans chanted the name of the newest member of the four-time winner’s club.
That unique twist has been Castroneves’ signature moment since he won his first INDYCAR SERIES race in Detroit in 2000. He repeated it at IMS in rookie “500” in 2001, breaking tradition by celebrating on the main straightaway. This year, he added another unique element to his celebration: he sprinted down the main straightaway as fans continued to cheer for him.
An INDYCAR SERIES fan favorite for two decades, yet Sunday’s response from the socially distanced crowd surprised Castroneves.
“I don’t (expect it),” he said. “I don’t even know how far I went running, because every time I kept running people kept chanting my name and screaming. The ovation was just outstanding. That energy is natural and contagious. It was a special feeling.”
Roughly 20 minutes after taking the checkered flag, Castroneves finally made his way to Victory Podium where the typical post-race celebration finally began.
Castroneves was lifted in front of the race fans with his No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM team, where he drank the celebratory milk from American Dairy Association Indiana. During this phase of the post-race festivities, he was interviewed on NBC and took photos with various sponsor hats and awards.
After the initial victory celebration, he took part in the winner’s victory lap in an IMS event car with his family, team co-owners Mike Shank and Jim Meyer and IMS Public Address announcer Dave Calabro to allow every fan left at the sprawling 2.5-mile facility could have a chance to see the race winner.
The victory lap ended at the famed Yard of Bricks, where the ceremonial kissing of the bricks creates some of the most iconic photos each year.
Following the special moment, Castroneves and his team returned to Victory Podium for another 30 minutes of photos with team members, partners, family and more, as well as for award presentations.
The goal is for this round of the celebration to be finished about an hour after the checkered flag. That wasn’t quite accomplished for Castroneves, but he still made his ESPN SportsCenter interview, which was the catalyst for four hours of media interviews.
The night was still young for Castroneves, but he took a quick break to change into a fresh pink and white firesuit. Working up a sweat for three hours would make anyone want to change. Douse yourself in milk on top of it, and it’s all but necessary.
After that, he held his post-race press conference at the DEX Imaging Media Center. From there, he spoke with local Indianapolis television stations, CNN and Telemundo before a round of Zoom interviews in markets including Detroit, which hosts the next two NTT INDYCAR SERIES events June 12-13, and Nashville, which hosts its first INDYCAR race on the streets of Nashville Aug. 8.
Finally, Castroneves’ last obligation of the night came at 9 p.m. It was a twilight photo shoot at the Yard of Bricks with the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, which will grace his face for a fourth time later this year. He took photos by himself and with his family.
By 9:30 p.m., his night was done. But his engagement tour wasn’t.
Castroneves was back at it Monday at 8 a.m. with a SiriusXM NASCAR Radio interview, followed by a segment on the Today Show.
Then, it was time for nearly two hours of photos: first was a photo shoot for BorgWarner, in which a 360-degree view of photos of Castroneves’ head is taken for sculptor William Behrends to use as a catalyst for making the quarter-sized face on the trophy.
Then, he was back at the Yard of Bricks for a two-hour photo shoot with his black and pink car, the Borg-Warner Trophy, the winner’s wreath and, at times, the Brazilian flag. He stood in the same place while team members, Honda employees, Firestone employees and many more people involved in putting on “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” cycle through for photos.
By 11 a.m., Castroneves was finished with his photo shoot and moved on to another four-hour session of interviews with a variety of motorsports, national and international news outlets. But don’t worry, there was a lunch break for Jimmy John’s squeezed in there.
Castroneves’ night ended with a winner’s reception in Pagoda Plaza that honors the best finishers and storylines from Sunday’s race and a team dinner afterward. Castroneves was given an hour and a half to change and prepare for the evening’s ceremonies. Instead, he used that time for his second detour to visit Terzini and his friends at their home in downtown Indianapolis.
The winner of the Indianapolis 500 normally hops on a jet for a media tour in New York City following the Monday night banquet, but that won’t happen this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, the four-time Indy 500 winner went on a different and more personal tour. Crunched for time and unlike any celebration or engagement tour the Racing Capital of the World has seen, this one was worth every moment for Castroneves.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “My mom always told me to be authentic, be yourself. Yesterday was such a special day, and I was just emotional and happy. The things that I did, I don’t plan. Trust me. I don’t think it would’ve come out the way it did. I just drove by the fence, and I felt that they were behind me for so many years, and all of a sudden we finally did it, and I just wanted to pay a tribute to them.”