Helio Castroneves has not left the Team Penske organization's racing house this season but rather has been part of a rearranging within that same house. After 18 seasons of gathering success with Penske in the IndyCar Series, which included three Indianapolis 500 triumphs, Castroneves has undergone a big career transition this season.
Castroneves still competes for Penske but now in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship which makes it's annual stop this weekend at Watkins Glen International for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.
"At least I'm still driving for Roger (Penske)," Castroneves said. "That's the good news. With Penske, I'm still in the same racing house but we've just changed a little bit of the furniture around."
Last season, Penske announced that he was adding a two-car sports car effort to his large racing empire and that Castroneves would leave his full time Penske IndyCar Series ride behind to drive for him in the sports car ranks. Castroneves did race in the IndyCar event last September at The Glen, placing fourth. Penske did provide a car for Castroneves to drive in last month's Indianapolis 500 where he suffered a crash, finishing 27th.
Castroneves, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, will race at The Glen this weekend in the Sahlen's event. He will co-drive with Ricky Taylor in the Team Penske No. 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi in the Prototype class. The team will also field the No. 6 Acura entry for Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron.
"Every place I'm going this year where I use to race in IndyCar it's been interesting," Castroneves said. "Not only knowing where to go in terms of the new program but also the lines that you have to take on the track are different because it's a different car, different tires, you got to approach things a little bit different. It's a learning process."
When Castroneves hits the track at The Glen this weekend, he may have to start to learn how to drive the Acura DPi car there while perhaps simultaneously unlearning some of what he remembers from driving IndyCar there for so many years.
"The good news is that my team has been there at Watkins Glen testing while I was racing at Indianapolis," Castroneves said. "Ricky Taylor tested an entire day. Also Juan Pablo and Dane. When you have a team like that and now it's just not about one driver like IndyCar but sharing a car with other drivers it makes the learning curve much smoother. I still have to go through a pace and it's a six-hour race so it's going to be a long day."
Castroneves and Taylor have already found success in IMSA this season winning the race at Mid-Ohio on May 6. It also is a track that Castroneves has prior IndyCar experience on.
"It's always good when you achieve a goal," Castroneves said. "To win right away in the first year even though we knew this year would be a learning curve for everyone, not only me as a driver but the team and also the manufacturer."
While Castroneves readily admits that he misses IndyCar he is enjoying his new sports car endeavor.
"It's great to be in the sports cars full time," Castroneves said. "Yes, it's different from IndyCar for sure but you know what, when Roger decided to move me to the sports car program I thought okay this is a great opportunity to keep doing what I love to do which is racing. So hopefully I can prolong my career for a long time."
Castroneves will get another shot to win his fourth Indy 500 next May. He knows that whatever he accomplishes in sports cars that his career will ultimately be defined by his Indianapolis 500 victories.
"Hopefully I will get a fourth Indy 500 win," Castroneves said. "My goal was also to be at the top and I'm honored by what I've done in the past. Absolutely I keep up with the IndyCar guys. Listen, I've been racing with them so many years that's it's weird not racing with them every week. But I've made a lot of new friends in sports car racing. I told RP (Roger Penske) when he asked me to go to the sports cars that I still have a lot of racing enthusiasm in me so lets get going. I'm up for it."