By David Morgan, Associate Editor
MADISON, Ill. – After hinting that an announcement about his future would be coming soon, official word came down Friday that Helio Castroneves will remain as the driver of the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda in 2023.
The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner first joined the team on a part-time basis before moving into a full-time role this season – his first full-time season since 2017.
“Keeping Helio onboard wasn’t really a question for us,” team owner Mike Shank said. “We’ve built a really strong relationship with him over these last two race seasons. He brings so much to the table, on and off the track. He’s been able to help us grow as a team and we’ve been able to learn from his years of experience. It’s truly a mutually beneficial relationship. And of course he’s a perfect face of the sport and has such an infectious personality, so to have him on our team is an honor.
“I’m so excited that myself and Meyer Shank Racing have renewed for 2023,” Castroneves added. “I’m super optimistic for an amazing season because of everything that we have built this season – all the positive data and positive energy. I can’t thank Mike and Jim enough and of course all of our partners.
“There is no question that we are all super excited to continue this amazing partnership. Simon (Pagenaud) and I are going to do everything we can to finish this season strong, and then have a good start to 2023 and some even better results.”
In his full-time return to the cockpit this season, Castroneves has struggled at times to get a handle on the current car with the Aeroscreen, but has brought in three top-10 finishes along the way through the first 14 races of the season. His best finish came with a seventh-place result in the Indianapolis 500.
“I didn’t expect how difficult it was,” Castroneves explained of getting reacclimated to the car this season. “We are making some changes internally to make sure these last three races, we continue to improve.
“As I mentioned before, this aeroscreen literally throw a curve ball, to find a sweet spot, taking longer than I expected for myself to adapt and to understand what the car needs.
“We always like one side or another. We’re never able to find it. You see good drivers, guys that used to be in the series longer, able to have those inconsistencies, as well.
“But we pushing. I feel like we could be better. But remember, it’s the first full-time season that I’m in. Certainly, we’re preparing for bigger things in the future.”
At age 47, Castroneves is certainly closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but acknowledged that he’s still got the fire to compete and doesn’t feel like he’s close to hanging up the helmet anytime soon.
“This is something that comes natural. You can’t put a number on it,” Castroneves said. “I feel obviously I wouldn’t believe myself if I don’t feel that I have not only the potential, the dedication, and I know I can do the results, and the team and people behind. So the reason I’m still going for it is because I believe in all these aspects. I’m going to keep moving forward until I get the result.
“Obviously you get to a point that you got to realize. As of right now, I don’t feel that in my gut. I feel I have a lot left in the tank. The number is just an age. As I said, it’s about understanding, especially with this new car, even for a veteran, experienced guy like myself, the car changed. When you don’t have practice and things like that, it’s become very challenge.
“I feel this is great that we spend this year working very, very hard. I have three races over, so we want to finish in a great note. All the data we are collecting, keep pushing for the rest of the season.”