The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series kicks off on Friday with the opening practice session for the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, for Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves it will mark a very special milestone as he will embarks on his 20th season in the series dating back to 1998 when he made his debut for Bettenhausen, spending two seasons with the team in the CART Series.
Castroneves moved to current outfit Team Penske in 2000 and made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2001 when Penske moved to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
As a rookie at the Indianapolis 500, Castroneves started the race from 11th place and took victory at the event and followed this up with back to back wins in 2002 when he started the race from 13th place.
Castroneves took victory at the Brickyard again in 2009 from pole position, however throughout his time in the Verizon IndyCar Series and his success at the Indianapolis 500, the Brazilian has yet to win a Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Castroneves ended the 2016 season in third place behind his team mate’s at Penske, champion Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.
So could 2017 be his season? Castroneves was extremely consistent in 2016 and will be hoping that he can carry this momentum forward into the 2017 season and speaking ahead of the start of the season he commented by saying:
I can’t wait to get to St. Pete. I just want to get this season started. I have a feeling that this is going to be a great season. I feel good about how we closed out the 2016 season and want to carry that momentum into this year. In the end, last season was good, but if this Hitachi Chevrolet team had gotten a couple of things to break the other way, then who knows what would have happened. It’s my 20th season in Indy car, but I feel great and am ready to compete at the highest level. I love the St. Petersburg event. The fans are great. The weather is fantastic. We’ve had good finishes here and we’re looking forward to getting off to a fast start this year.
Castroneves has one pole position here which came in 2007 and one victory which came in 2012 and following a strong off-season in terms of performance with the No.3 Hitachi Chevrolet, the Brazilian is well placed to start the new season with a good result.