You don’t mess with the Helio

Posted by Iannucci | 5/21/2008 | 11 comments »
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Why oh why must some we be subjected to this kind of hackery mere days before the biggest event in open-wheel racing?

Indy champ Helio Castroneves ponders move to NASCAR

Now before you all go looking for some strong rope and a chair to put yourself out of this N-Word misery, take a moment and forget whatever this muckraking reporter says in the rest of this article and focus solely on Helio’s words as quoted.

"I won't deny that I'm thinking about it…"

"It would be great to one day try the [stock] cars. But at this point I'm focusing on Indy cars and winning the Indianapolis 500 again."

“It depends on the opportunity.”

"It's all about the timing and I'm not sure if the timing is right."

"We're going to talk after Indy."

"A good driver is going to be a good driver."

"I think it would be a good reception."

We all know there are two bona fide celebrities in the IndyCar series right now and Castroneves is one of them. Losing him to any other form of racing at this pivotal time in the sports history would be catastrophic, and since he owns a stock car team in Brazil it’s not implausible to think he might be interested in driving them here in North America. Helio’s a bright enough guy to know that if the right offer comes along in any form of racing it has to be considered, but he also sees how difficult any transition would be.

You may see something different in this, but I don’t see anything beyond a guy keeping his options open. There’s no enthusiastic talk of more races or being on TV more or of needing a new challenge. No, all I see is a driver trying to give short but polite answers to a reporter, and a reporter trying to write a story that doesn’t yet exist.

Judging from the short quotes, I’m guessing the actual transcript looks something like this.

Peltz: “Hey Helio, got a moment?”

Helio: “Sure, Jim.”

Peltz: “How’s the new teammate compared to Sam?”

Helio: “Ryan? Oh, he’s great. He keeps crashing and making me look good, haha! Wait, don’t print that.”

Peltz: “No problem. You think Sam is going to be OK racing stock cars?”

Helio: “Oh sure. Sam’s a good guy and he’s going to do fine no matter what he’s racing. A good driver is going to be a good driver."

Peltz: “So what’s the latest on your plans for the N-Word?”

Helio: “Uh, haha, you’re a funny guy.”

Peltz: “Well you’ve thought about driving stock cars, right?”

Helio: “Well I won't deny that I'm thinking about it. I mean, it would be great to one day try the big ugly cars, haha. But at this point I'm focusing on Indy cars and winning the Indianapolis 500 again. And I’m still trying to win my first series championship as well.”

Peltz: “Have you talked to Roger Penske about a plan similar to Sam’s?”

Helio: “Uh, well I talk to Roger all the time. I mean, it’s come up but you know I’m still racing IndyCars. We’ve talked about it in the past and I’m sure we're going to talk after Indy, but right now we’re focused on Indy."

Peltz: “But your contract is up this year right? What if Rick Hendrick or Joe Gibbs called you?”

Helio: “Yeah, right! I suppose it depends on the opportunity. I mean those are great teams, but I’d really like to win the series for Roger before I think about going anywhere else. It’s the one thing I haven’t done yet. After that if I make any move, well, it's all about the timing and I'm not sure if the timing is right."

Peltz: “You think you’d be accepted in stock cars?”

Helio: “What’s with all the stock car questions, Jim? Yeah, I think it would be a good reception. Look, I gotta run. Don’t forget to watch the Indy 500 this weekend. It’s fun-tastic!”

Peltz: “Sure thing, Helio. Thanks!”

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, Helio is just as shocked as we are.

"It's kind of strange to print a statement like that," said Castroneves, who will start fourth in Sunday's 92nd running of the Indy 500. "I did not understand much. I found my English is apparently getting worst. [They] definitely took it out of context."

"They asked me questions about thinking about NASCAR," the 33-year-old Castroneves said. "Every driver [is] thinking about NASCAR or new challenges, let's put it this way. But it depends on the opportunity, and my opportunity right now is great being here in IndyCar, especially with the merger."

"The future, I don't know what's going to happen. But, right now, the only thing I can say is I'm very much committed to my team. I love where I'm at and, hopefully, we can continue."

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  1. The American Mutt // May 21, 2008 8:35 AM  

    Call me a tinfoil hatter, but I can't help but wonder why Napcar always seems to find it's way into IRL headlines whenever IRL has the spotlight. Call me nuts, but I no longer think it's a coincidence. I also don't see Helio leaving, at least not until he starts approaching 40. Lets face it, drivers can get old and fat and still be competitive in Napcar.

  2. Anonymous // May 21, 2008 10:40 AM  

    I don't see Helio leaving. Roger knows the talent that Helio has and the huge publicity he gets - there's no way Penske goes with someone else in that seat and gives those things up. I also think that when Helio wins Indy #3, he'll start thinking #4 is within reach, and #5 is possible.....what race car driver would pass that up?

  3. Jennifer Coomer // May 21, 2008 12:38 PM  

    Thank you for balancing this all out. I was ready to just say, "that's it! I'm staying home. Not going to the 500 this year."

  4. Anonymous // May 21, 2008 3:53 PM  

    I got a feeling he can't say flat out no, because Roger Penske owns a few tin tops racers. and Roger might get upset at Helio if he say something bad about taxi cab racing.

    honestly , Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske always scare me that they will move more IndyCar drivers to napcar. If they have Napcar teams, how loyal are they to the sport of IndyCar racing ??

  5. John in Speedway // May 21, 2008 5:36 PM  

    My first reaction was, OK I'm no longer rooting for Helio to win the 500. It just makes the IRL seem like a stepping stone (which is absolutely is not and should not be). However, "anonymous" has a good point. If he wins 3, how could he possibly switch to Nascab when he has a shot at being a 4 time winner and be mentioned in the likes of Unser, Foyt, and Mears?

  6. Anonymous // May 21, 2008 5:42 PM  

    Well, Iannucci, looks like you nailed it. Just saw Helio on ESPN news. He said himself it was "misinterpreting".

  7. Ansen Bayer // May 21, 2008 6:53 PM

  8. Anonymous // May 21, 2008 8:37 PM  

    Jeff, thank you for taking me off the ledge (figuratively). I saw this on the ESPN ticker yesterday, and have been paranoid about it ever since. Even if it is true, does Penske really have an N-word opening right now, and if he doesn't, what top team would hire Helio? Could he really get any more famous with a mid to low level N-word team?

  9. Anonymous // May 21, 2008 11:07 PM  

    Roger Penske & Floyd Ganassi , if you love IndyCar racing, why the heavy involvement with Napcar ??

  10. Anonymous // May 22, 2008 6:23 AM  

    yeah, but marco's still gonna win it ;)

  11. Jennifer Coomer // May 22, 2008 6:37 AM  

    I was so glad to see that article printed in the Louisville paper this morning. And cracked up when he said his English must be getting worse.