By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
NASHVILLE – Four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves will make his triumphant return to the NTT IndyCar Series since winning The Greatest Spectacle in Racing two months ago.
Rather than the already legendary black and pink No. 06 SiriusXM/AutoNation Honda, Castroneves will be sporting a baby blue Transcard sponsored machine for this Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.
Nevertheless, the Brazilian is excited to be back on an IndyCar circuit, knowing he’ll run the remaining road and street courses before returning full-time in 2022. Something Castroneves won’t take for granted.
Especially, when Meyer Shank Racing are poised to become an even stronger multi-car organization, hoping to rival the sport’s elite of Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske.
“I’m gonna use (the opportunity) as much as I can. The preparation of those races to get myself acclimated, but in the same time I gotta for it,” Castroneves told Motorsports Tribune.
“I’m not just going to be here playing around. But it’s important for practitioner details. Again, we’re building a team. We have the same guys from Indianapolis, which is already a big deal. We’re going to continue working on it. Every lap that we put out there, it’s a learning process and it’s been a feeling most for next year.”
The buzz around the IndyCar paddock is the unknown nature the 2.17-mile street course will provide on the 27-car grid. One of the notable characteristics include how bumpy the track is. Some have compared the circuit to Belle Isle or in Helio’s case, the Baltimore circuit from the early 2010s.
Castroneves mentioned the new circuit will bring everyone at an even level field, but there’s a major catch. Most of the field have competed in all 10 races up to this point with Castroneves only starting the 500. This comes in spite of trying figuring out the circuit ahead of others.
“Everybody’s all in. We have a lot more to pick up,” said Castroneves. “Since this is a place that’s so narrow, a lot of things can happen. Big strategy can play in our hand and that could be very beneficial to us.”
While opening practice won’t begin until 4:10 p.m. ET on Peacock, Castroneves has kept himself busy. Outside of all the press and festivities that comes with winning the Indy 500, he competed in the popular Camping World SRX Series.
During the six-race campaign, Castroneves scored two heat wins at Lucas Oil Raceway and Nashville Fairgrounds. As far as race finishes were concerned, the fifth-place points finisher’s best outing was a third at the legendary dirt circuit at Eldora.
Those Saturday nights has kept him laser focused in preparation for an even busier future in motorsports.
“I’m glad SRX was around because I was able to keep my mind focused, but nothing like this deal. In IndyCar, it’s always great, always tough, and super competitive,” Castroneves on the two different disciplines.
“That’s why details makes a difference. Right now, focus on this and preparing yourself. Definitely anything you do for 2022 is always gonna be better.”