Even with a long and accomplished racing resume after two decades at the highest levels of competition, Helio Castroneves’ career has arguably never been better than it is right now. At 46 years old, Castroneves has won three of the world’s greatest races over the past 13 months, with two-straight victories in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona complementing his fourth victory in the Indianapolis 500 last May.
By now, there’s very little in racing that Castroneves hasn’t been able to say he’s at least tried, let alone conquered. However, what stands out both on his resume and in his mind is a lack of opportunities in stock cars, which he would eventually like to remedy.
Speaking on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday, Castroneves expressed a strong interest in eventually racing in the Daytona 500 or on road courses in NASCAR, sharing that he had long wanted to try racing stock cars while driving for Team Penske in IndyCar. Castroneves’ interest in stock cars was renewed last year when he raced in SRX, getting experience driving cars with fenders on both asphalt and dirt ovals.
“Roger Penske, I drove for him for over 21 years, and — probably what he did was making the right decisions, not (allowing) me to do it — but he never let me drive a Cup car,” Castroneves explained. “And I said ‘Why not?’ I swear to God, I always asked him, and I stayed there for a long time. I didn’t ask, like, repeatedly. I waited for one to two years, and then when he said ‘No’, another two years, ‘Hey, what about this? Maybe there’s a test that I can do? Who knows?’ Until finally he said ‘No, I’m not gonna let you do that.’
“But now I can. I feel that when I drove the SRX and drove on dirt — which was really cool, I had a great time last year — I said ‘Why not? Why not try the Daytona 500, or some sort of a road course, or whatever it is?’ That would be something. That would be something I would like to try because I feel that I would have definitely checked that box on my bucket list.”
Prior to SRX, the closest Castroneves has come to racing in stock cars came in the mid-2000s, when he competed in four seasons of IROC competition from 2002 to 2005. Castroneves is currently racing in IMSA for Meyer Shank Racing, and served as the team’s driver for the final stint of the Rolex 24 to win the event for the second year in a row.
Should the opportunity to race in NASCAR eventually materialize, Castroneves would become the latest driver primarily known as an open-wheel and sportscar racer to cross over into stock cars. Notable recent drivers to have made such a jump include Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick and others.