Helio Castroneves

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Michael Shank ran through a host of Helio Castroneves’ motorsports attributes last week, and they went beyond the driving superlatives that have been on display in North American racing for three-plus decades.

“There is nobody in this (NTT INDYCAR SERIES) paddock more recognizable, better with media folks, sponsors, corporate partners, especially,” Shank said. “(He can) fill an ambassador role, a coach role.

“He gets the business side of what we do also. His network is huge.”

Shank didn’t need to further explain the decision to sign the Brazilian as a minority partner of the team, but he did.

“It just was the right thing in many different departments that made sense for us,” he said.

It will take some time to recognize Castroneves as something other than a full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver – it was the same with his boyhood buddy, Tony Kanaan, when he stopped being a regular after the 2019 season – but he has all the qualities to be a valuable resource for Shank and co-owner Jim Meyer for years to come.

Meet Helio Castroneves, the team owner.

“My first thing now is (asking) when is the (series) owners meeting because I want to start asking questions,” he said, laughing.

Castroneves, 48, made it clear that his attention to driving race cars will not cease with this new role. He will be in MSR’s new third car for next year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge as he continues to chase a record-setting fifth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Shank suggested the latest four-time champion will drive “for the next couple years.”

Castroneves will be a candidate for sports car driving duties if the team can secure a manufacturer to continue in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as it seeks a third consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona title and additional season championships. He also will keep alive his dream of competing in NASCAR’s Daytona 500, which he nearly realized earlier this year. And there are Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) races to participate in, including Thursday’s dirt race at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri.

“I want to be very clear: I am not retiring, OK?” Castroneves said. “I just want to make sure people understand that. Actually, my (schedule) is open now to do other series. I can do SRX, IMSA, NASCAR, stock cars in Brazil, whatever the (opportunity).

“Obviously, the main focus is INDYCAR in my role (with) different hats and also (trying to win Indy). I still have a lot of fire inside me, a lot of energy that I want to burn. A great thing is the experience that I (bring) and built all these years.”

One of Castroneves’ MSR duties will be to help acclimate sports car ace Tom Blomqvist to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. They have shared a winning car in the Rolex 24 and have known each other for years. Castroneves joked that only their professional relationship has changed – he wants to be called “boss,” a request the 29-year-old Blomqvist has already followed through.

But Castroneves also will bring insight to the MSR’s big picture, which despite his singular focus as a driver, has been one of his attributes over the years. Overshadowed by a sociable personality is a savvy business mind honed through working with the Pennsylvania car dealership he co-owns with Roger Penske. Remember, Castroneves has spoken openly about becoming a team owner with Kanaan, and he is increasingly becoming suited to achieved that.

“Remember, this isn’t a charity business,” Shank said. “I have to be somehow not below the (financial) line. How can we best prepare ourselves to do that for the next five years? I thought (Castroneves) was one of the missing pieces.”

Castroneves knows MSR has gains to make on the top NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams. His win at IMS in 2021 is the team’s only trip to victory lane in 101 series races since debuting in 2017.

“Jokes aside, we do have a lot of work ahead of us,” Castroneves said. “The best for me in this condition is to step aside (as a driver), help Mike and everyone go to the next level. With the sponsors and partners that we have, for sure it’s going to help.

“Again, the ‘Drive for Five’ is alive, and it’s not going to go away, and we will get that (fifth Indy win), for sure.”