Story By: JEREMY TROIANO / TEAM PENSKE – MOORESVILLE, NC – Over the course of his 21 seasons competing for Team Penske, Helio Castroneves produced hall of fame results for North America’s most successful racing organization.
On Friday, Castroneves was recognized for his accomplishments on and off the track as he became the ninth inductee into the Team Penske Hall of Fame.
During a virtual tribute to Castroneves with current and former Team Penske employees and special guests to say “thank you” for his memorable time with the team, Team Penske President Tim Cindric – who traveled to Florida to visit the popular Brazilian racer – surprised Castroneves with the Hall of Fame induction. With Castroneves’ longtime teammate and friend Gil de Ferran in attendance and hundreds of Team Penske associates participating in the live online celebration, Cindric presented the longest-tenured driver and one of the most accomplished racers in team history with his Hall of Fame award.
“What an incredible surprise,” said Castroneves, who ranks inside the top five among all Team Penske drivers in virtually every all-time statistical category. “I was hoping to visit the Team Penske shop in North Carolina to see everyone after the season, but we couldn’t do it with all of the COVID-19 restrictions. It was so great to connect with everyone virtually. I have so many friends and people that are really like family to me after 21 years together. That was awesome, but for TC (Cindric) to then announce that I was being inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame, wow. What an amazing honor. I want to thank Roger (Penske), TC and everyone at Team Penske that I’ve worked with over the years. It has been an incredible ride and this is such a special tribute.”
Castroneves joined Team Penske in 2000 and the popular Brazilian racer almost instantly became one of the brightest stars in INDYCAR racing. He earned 30 NTT INDYCAR SERIES victories for the team, including three memorable Indianapolis 500 wins. Castroneves became the first driver in history to win in his first two career Indy 500 starts when he produced victories in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in both 2001 and 2002. He won again at Indy in 2009 and he remains one of only 10 drivers in history to earn three or more Indianapolis 500 victories.
Castroneves transitioned to a full-season program with Team Penske in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2018. After earning five victories over the past three seasons, Castroneves and Ricky Taylor – his teammate on the No. 7 Acura – captured the series DPi championship in 2020. With the Acura Team Penske sports car program drawing to a close after this season, the title-winning effort marked the perfect ending to Castroneves’ time with Team Penske as it represented the first series championship in his remarkable career. After 21 seasons and 344 combined career starts, Castroneves produced 36 wins (fifth in team history), 60 poles (first in team history), 107 podium results (first in team history) and 160 top-five finishes (second in team history).
Following his first career INDYCAR win for the team at Detroit in 2000, an excited Castroneves scaled the safety fence next to the track to celebrate with the fans. The fence climb became his signature victory celebration as he earned the nickname “Spider-Man.” With his engaging personality and an unbridled passion for racing, Castroneves enjoyed a unique connection with team members and partners while helping to bring a new breed of fans to the sport. In addition, he became a household name off the track in 2007 when he competed in and won season five of the popular reality TV show Dancing with the Stars.
“What can I say, Helio and I came to Team Penske at the end of 1999 and our relationship goes beyond racing,” said Cindric. “We have had a lot of fun together over the years and it is hard to imagine this team without him. He really defines what it is to be a ‘team player.’ Even though he will be competing against us next year, he can always count on us to be there for him.”
Castroneves will continue to add to his racing legacy as he will compete part-time in select INDYCAR and IMSA races for other organizations in 2021.
With his induction, Castroneves joins previous Team Penske Hall of Fame honorees: Roger Penske (2016), Mark Donohue (2016), Rick Mears (2017), Karl Kainhofer (2017), Rusty Wallace (2018), Walter Czarnecki (2018), Don Miller (2019) and Dan Luginbuhl (2019).
Inductions into the Team Penske Hall of Fame occur annually. Each year, inductees are chosen from current and former drivers, employees and partners that have made a significant impact on the team and its history. The Hall of Famers are honored both at an event and within the walls of the Team Penske facility located in Mooresville, NC.