By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Team Penske confirmed today that three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves will switch from racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series full time in 2018 to the IMSA Weather Tech Sports Car Championship, piloting one of the teams’ two Acura ARX-05 DPi prototypes.
Castroneves is the third driver to be announced for the Penske sports car program after Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron were confirmed for the other prototype. Remaining drivers have yet to be announced. Castroneves will continue racing for Team Penske at the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves is coming off of a fourth-place finish in the championship and scored a win at the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway in July but has been rumored to have been heading to the sports car program since that particular weekend.
“Helio has been a valuable member of Team Penske for almost 20 years and we are looking forward to sharing more success together,” said team owner Roger Penske in a team statement.
“Competitors like Helio, Rick Mears and Mark Donohue are what have made Team Penske what it is today. This represents a new challenge for him and I know he is excited about the opportunity. Having established winning drivers like Helio and Juan, teaming up with young and talented racers that know the series like Dane Cameron, will help give our new sports car program a solid foundation as we head into the 2018 season.”
“I’ve been fortunate to achieve a lot of my personal goals with Team Penske over the years,” said Castroneves.
“Helping Roger, the team and everyone with Acura start this program and build it from the ground up will be another big challenge and a great opportunity in my career. I am proud of everything we have accomplished together in INDYCAR and now I am focused on helping to develop the ARX-05 to try and win the 24 Hours of Daytona and the IMSA championship in 2018 with Acura.
Castroneves’s case for staying in IndyCar has not been helped out given that all three of his full time IndyCar teammates this year have won championships (Will Power in 2014, Simon Pagenaud in 2016, Josef Newgarden in 2017) while Castroneves failed to do so in 20 years of competing in IndyCar racing. Castroneves will be behind the wheel of Team Penske’s Oreca/Gibson LMP2 car at this weekend’s Petit Le Mans with Pagenaud and Montoya.