Three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves is thrilled the IndyCar Series will open its 2010 season March 14 in his native Brazil. He’s even been lobbying Brazilian President Lula da Silva for the race to be held in his hometown of Ribeirao Preto. A decision on the race's location is expected within the next month.
He expected his meeting with da Silva last month to be 15 minutes but it lasted an hour and 15 minutes, Castroneves said Tuesday during a break testing luxury sports cars at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Maxim Magazine’s November Dream Cars issue. (See photo courtesy of Homestead-Miami Speedway). The season 5 Dancing with the Stars champion didn’t want to say too much about his hope that his hometown will host the race.
“Well, I’m suspicious to talk about it, but yes, my hometown always gave me such incredible support since I was in go karts,” Castroneves said. “They are part of my dream come true. They helped me to achieve what I achieved, for me I’ll never forget that. So it’d be great to at least be there and able to promote the town because the town is great. I was raised there it would d be awesome, if it works it’d be a dream come true, if it doesn’t work, it would be great to at least be in Brazil.”
Castroneves said da Silva even asked whether he drove as well as he danced. The experience was such a positive one, Castroneves keeps hoping he and his team will have a chance to meet President Barack Obama one day.
“I wish I have the opportunity now to do the same thing in America, because my team is America, I would love them to have the opportunity to meet the president as well, like the previous American drivers did,” Castroneves said of previous American drivers, who have won the Indy 500. "I know I’m not American, but I would love to give this opportunity for my guys because they deserve it.”
Castroneves said other non-American Indy 500 winners have also not been invited to the White House. He hopes to change that, but even if he has to skip the visit, he’d like his team to go.
“I won three times, man. I mean it’s sad because my guys are American, they deserve to be there as well. I’m the driver, I’m the one carrying the car, but they are the ones putting everything together,” he said. “I think it would be fair for them. If they don’t want me there, I want at least my guys there, hopefully we make it happen.”
Castroneves, who was acquitted of tax evasion earlier this year, won the Indy 500 just days after the final count against him was dropped. He missed the first race of the season and thinks it could still be a long shot to keep alive the streak of the past four Indy 500 winners also winning the IndyCar Series championship. But he’s not giving up hope.
“I would love to keep the tradition going, but it’s one of those things, you can’t just rely on the fact it happens in the past, you’ve just got to go and continue working,” he said. “Certainly missing the first race makes it a little bit tougher, but that also brings us a huge opportunity, because it’s tougher, we want to do it more, you want to make it happen … There are still five races to go. Hopefully we can do it.
Castroneves said he’d also like to win a championship at his home track. Homestead-Miami Speedway hosts the IndyCar Series finale Oct. 10 and again next year.
“Bringing the championship down to Homestead, man it would be a lot of fun,” Castroneves said adding that none of the sport’s drivers who live in Miami has won at Homestead. “We have a lot of opportunities, a lot of drivers who live here, so hopefully this year we can make it happen.”
After test driving the Dream Cars (Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche and Corvette) for Maxim, Castroneves, who drives an Acura RL, is less sure about his choice for an exotic car. He enjoyed driving all of the fancy cars for different reasons.
"I’m shopping for a new car, it’s great to find out, hmmm which one am I going to have here," Castroneves said. "I like all of them, so more doubts here."