The cold and snow couldn’t keep racer Helio Castroneves away from Cobo Center.
While the warm Florida sun is more to the Brazilian’s liking, the Team Penske ace was at the North American International Auto Show doing what he does better than any other race driver in the world — shaking hands, smiling, taking care of sponsors and playing the role of team leader.
While Juan Pablo Montoya may have won the Indianapolis 500 last year for Roger Penske, make no mistake, Castroneves is still the man “The Captain” looks to in and out of the race car to represent him.
The 40-year-old does it effortlessly, his debonair looks, immaculately groomed hair and easy-going, polite manner making him a media favorite and a sponsor darling.
Of course, don’t be fooled into thinking Castroneves is soft: You don’t win three Indy 500s unless you are tough, committed and ruthless.
Castroneves, who’ll be at the wheel of the No. 3 Hitachi/Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Chevy/Dallara this season, is looking for a big year in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
After all, it’s Penske’s 50th year as a race team owner and the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May.
“I was frustrated last year,” admitted Castroneves, who finished fifth to Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon in championship points in 2015. “Not so much disappointed. But I learned a lot.”
Castroneves started the 2015 season strongly with podiums. He finished seventh at Indianapolis. Then the season sort of misfired with sixth- and 19th-place performances in the wet in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit at Belle Isle and, well, some avoidable wrecks later on the schedule.
“A few races, maybe I pushed a little over the limit,” Castroneves admitted. “We qualified well all year, but in the races, not so good in the end.”
Castroneves doesn’t dwell on mistakes. He is the Spider-Man for goodness sakes, earning the name after his post-victory fence climbs.
Penske taught him to move on.
“Once the championship was over last season, and we didn’t win it, Roger never complained or pointed fingers,” Castroneves said. “He just moved on. That’s why he has won 16 Indy 500s. That’s why he is like he is. He doesn’t look at the past like a museum. He just looks to the future.”
Castroneves wants badly to win his first IndyCar title for Penske after finishing runner-up for the team four times. He wants to win his fourth Indy 500 and move into rarefied air with 500 legends A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.
“I want the race as badly as anyone this year,” said Castroneves, who joined Penske in 2001. “I want to win an IndyCar championship, too. I owe it to Roger and the organization. I promise I’ll do everything in my power. Anything.”
Detroit Free Press/TNS