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IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500

IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

Helio Castroneves
May 15, 2003


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

Q. The fact that you're going for three in a row, that's never been done before, does this in any way change your tactics?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Basically, starting in this position, the last two previous years, I started outside the Top-10. All of the sudden leading the pack might change the beginning of the race, hopefully not change the end of it, which that's what we are expecting. You have to understand, 500 miles is such a long race that wherever you're starting, everybody does have a chance. For sure, being in the front, I guess it minimizes a little bit the trouble at the beginning of the race, but you still have to be careful and you still have to go for 200 laps. I'm looking forward to it. I'm optimistic. The team has been doing a fantastic job on the race car setups. Hopefully we get out of here with a big smile on our faces.

Q. You've got Rick Mears on that team and he's won four of these things. Talk about his input.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Wow, four times, that probably says everything. For sure when I came my first time, I was asking a lot of questions to him and to other champs, as well. It seems that I've been learning a lot and I'm still learning. This is a new phase again in my career. I'll enjoy every single second, but again, I'm going to have to learn again and execute like I did in previous years.

Q. When we spoke last week, the last question I asked you regarded the pole and the Toyota power, and while you had confident you said there were 15 other Toyotas to watch out for. How confident were you really at that time?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Again, as I said there was 15 but I guess nobody was watching me. I'm still -- at that time I was very confident but when you come to this place, Indianapolis, you have so many things that can go against you for example, Saturday, you have like a thunderstorm over here, and all of a sudden Sunday you have winds hitting 45, 50 miles an hour. Those situations, those circumstances turn out to be not only -- when you have four corners that look the same, which they are not, and you have the wind and those type of speeds, that turns out to be a nightmare. Again, we are able to take a chance with our time for the qualifying, and all of a sudden we had tremendous speed towards the end. I guess it's competence of the team setting up the car, taking a chance at the right time like we did last year. So far, I think it's working for our favor.

Q. Watching those laps, it looked like you had almost the exact same mark on your turn at each lap. It was as though you were running on a rail.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: For sure, I was. I was basically working really hard down there, playing with the weigh-jackers (ph), front and rear bar, make sure that every corner is exactly the same. And when I start seeing speed like 231, 232, I said, you know what, I'm going to keep it, because if I keep doing what I'm doing, it's been working really well. So you have to remember, four laps is very difficult. One is fine, but four, it's tough because the wind changes and the tires start going away a little bit, the fuel is going low. That was a very hard work, but, hey, in the end, it paid off.

Q. It looks like you have a new celebration for winning the pole, instead of climbing the fence, this time you climbed Gil de Ferran.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: He's been far away from the team for a couple of weeks. It's nice to have him back. Everybody was missing him. It's everybody's part of the success, even him, including him, even though he is going with different chassis, he still has a lot of input when we talk and discuss setups of the car. We do have a good relationship and I think that's why the teams have a good atmosphere, as well.

Q. Did you know when we talked last week that you were going to go with two different chassis?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, we did. I knew we had two chassis but basically -- I guess we felt comfortable, I felt comfortable. I might be hungry for the win and just to make sure that nobody do that except me.

Q. Talk about the honor of sitting on the pole.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's incredible. It's my first time so I don't know what to do. Very optimistic. It's awesome. This is a special place, as everybody knows. And again, I'm extremely happy but it's still work to do, still work to be done. Five, six pit stops, three, three-and-a-half-hour race, it's a long, long day. So we just have to keep our hats focused on the job and hopefully get out of here and climb the fence.

Q. Talk about some of your CART friends, Michael and Tony Kanaan, they come over there to make this a pretty beefy field, talk about those guys joining the party for the 500; We saw you and Gil with a cake.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: For sure, guys coming from the other series, coming back to Indy have been part of a full season on the Indy car series. So it's nice to have everyone around. Obviously, the competition is always there, like last year, but again, this year, you have also their guys with the quality teams, quality drivers and those circumstances, you know it's nice to go up there, and you know it's going to be tough. You know that you have to really, really take blood of the stones on the rocks and really, really challenge up there. And again, it's fun. And as you saw on the TV, Gil and I -- although I didn't like much the cake in my nose, cake in my face, but again, this is really fun. It's the kind of stuff that everybody likes to see. We are having a good time and we are talking about it, laughing about it, and we love what we do. When you put everybody together under those circumstances, you have not only great people around, because you're going to have a good show on the racetrack.

Q. Talk about the preparation -- inaudible -- day of the race?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: 11 o'clock in the practice, you are timing your distance, 25 minutes from the track. Leave, get my breakfast, nice food, cereal and stuff like that, and I'll leave about 8:30 to be here at 9:00. It's good to be two hours before, awake, alert, talk to him the night before, make sure the plan is the same thing and make sure they did not discover something while they are sleeping or have some crazy ideas. And 11:00, ready to go and start the whole day. It's a normal procedure.

Q. How nervous will you be -?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Especially when they are singing the National Anthem, oh, man, that's a killer, I'm like, they are killing me, it's so funny. But again, while I'm still having those feelings, that means I am having a lot of fun.



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