Helio Castroneves will continue chasing a record-breaking fifth Indianapolis 500 victory with a new perspective — winning one for his team.
Meyer Shank Racing announced Friday that the popular 48-year-old Brazilian will become a minority co-owner with the Ohio-based organization. He also will be the team’s third driver in next year’s 500.
Defending IMSA champion Tom Blomqvist will leave the sports car circuit and replace Castroneves as MSR’s second full-time driver as Castroneves begins his post-racing career as a driver coach.
“I want to be very clear: I am not retiring, OK? I just want to make sure people understand that,” Castroneves said. “Actually, my line is open now to do other series. Obviously, the main focus is IndyCar, and also the Drive for Five. I still have a lot of fire inside me, a lot of energy that I want to burn, but now I’m going to focus that burn on the Indy 500.”
It’s the second time Castroneves has scaled back his IndyCar schedule.
Team Penske’s longtime anchor driver competed in only one IndyCar race in 2019, the 500, after switching to sports cars. He started two IndyCar races in 2020, both at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Arrow McLaren, before making the jump to MSR in 2021.
But Castroneves’ record-tying 500 victory in 2021, the first for MSR, rejuvenated the driver’s career. He ran five of that year’s final six races before returning to full-time status the past two years.
Jim Meyer and Michael Shank said Castroneves will continue racing on Indy’s historic 2.5-mile track for at least a couple more years though his primary focus will be on other facets of his position.
“He will be joining our ownership group as a minority partner, which I think is the first in a long, long time a driver coming into the ownership group,” Jim Meyer said. “Helio will also take on a role — it’s bigger than an ombudsman — it’s driver coach, it’s ambassador, and frankly it’s providing and helping us get to this next level.”
MSR made its IndyCar debut with Jack Harvey driving the No. 50 car in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Harvey competed part-time with the team in 2018 and 2019 before MSR went to a full-time schedule during the shortened 2020 season.
The organization expanded to two full-time cars in 2022 with Castroneves and his former Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 series champ and 2019 Indy winner.
Now the team is making another major move by adding Blomqvist, the British sports car driver who began his professional career in the Formula One ladder series. In his first season with MSR, he captured his second career points title — his first since taking the 2010 Formula Renault UK crown.
Blomqvist is sixth in this year’s IMSA standings, 164 points behind the leaders with three races left.
“It’s obviously a step up in terms of career trajectory, that’s something I’m really excited about,” he said. “It’s also kind of coming back to my roots. It’s been almost I think nine, eight years since I last stepped foot properly in a single-seater series. It’s something I grew up with the goal of obviously chasing that Formula One dream. I kind of sidestepped that for quite a while.”
The Meyer Shank Racing announcement was made about 30 minutes after IndyCar drivers completed their first practice for the second Indianapolis Grand Prix of the season. The race is scheduled for Saturday as part of a tripleheader weekend with the NASCAR and Xfinity Series also competing on Indy’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.
While Castroneves will be driving his customary No. 06 Honda on Saturday, Pagenaud remains out as he continues his recovery from a concussion he suffered in a frightening crash in early July.
“Simon is progressing very well, he’s going to do it on his schedule and the physicians that are looking after him,” Shank said before addressing the brake failure that caused the crash. “We regret what happened at Mid-Ohio. He’s a great champion. We love him. When it’s time it’s time, I don’t know when.”
Linus Lundqvist, the 2022 Indy Lights champ, replaces Pagenaud for the second straight week.
The Swede qualified in the top 12 last weekend at Nashville but was knocked out of the race with an early crash. He did not advance through the first round of Friday’s qualifying.
“This is by far, the most exciting time in my career” he said. “Getting the opportunity to even do an IndyCar race is dream come true and then to perform at the level we were able to is another dream come true. And then to do my second one obviously means we did something right in the first race.”
Less than three months after watching longtime friend and countryman, Tony Kanaan, take his final laps at the Brickyard, Castroneves is writing a new chapter in his racing career, too.
“For me, you can’t do both,” he said. “This is a very, very tough series, very, very competitive. I’ve been here for a long time. Whoever is going to be next, whether it’s an experienced driver or a young driver, it takes time because it’s a process. I understand it.”