INDIANAPOLIS – Helio Castroneves’ pursuit of his fourth Indianapolis 500 ended with 55 laps left in Sunday’s 102nd running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Castroneves, who qualified eighth but quickly moved his way forward and ran in the top five for most of the day up to that point, restarted fifth following the fourth caution of the race and was looking to pass Simon Pagenaud when calamity struck.
His No. 3 Pennzoil Chevrolet appeared to drift high off turn three and get into the marbles before snapping around off the exit of the fourth corner. Castroneves barely kept the nose of the car off the outside wall, but it slid across the track and made contact with the left-rear against the inside wall at the entrance to pit road.
The contact ended Castroneves’ ninth attempt at becoming the fourth four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, alongside A.J. Foyt, his spotter Rick Mears and Al Unser.
“I got a good look at (making) a move on Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and got the momentum, but I think I went a little bit wide in (turn) three and there was probably a little bit of dust that got on the tires,” said Castroneves. “When I went in the corner I was eager to go in and pass Simon (Pagenaud and the rear gave out. I was not expecting that. I never had any sign, any warning.”
“The car was good all day,” Castroneves added. “It was definitely tough out there.”
Castroneves also left the ABC television audience with a cry to his team owner Roger Penske to bring him back for another shot at that magical fourth 500 victory in 2019.
“Please Roger, we’ve got to go back,” he said.
Penske wouldn’t confirm or deny a decision, but did admit that the possibility exists that Castroneves could return to the team for next year’s 103rd Indianapolis 500.
“It’s something we’ll look at, for sure,” said Penske. “He’s done a great job for us; that was just an unfortunate outcome to that restart. He got a good run and just got a little high there … you don’t see that very much from him.
“It’s hard to say no to him, isn’t it?” Penske added later in the media center. “I have to talk to the president here. He’ll figure that one out for me.”
Penske then turned to Cindric, who soothed Castroneves’ worries almost instantly.
“He’s going to be back,” Cindric confirmed. “He will be here next year in one of our cars.”
Cindric then spoke to Castroneves’ level of commitment and desire to win his fourth 500.
“That guy was sitting here this morning before I walked in, sitting in his fire suit, next to his engineer and ready to go about 6:30 this morning,” noted Cindric. “He’s been in his yellow suit … I don’t think I’ve seen him out of his yellow suit since we got here this month. He’s ready to go all the time.”