Without hesitation, Helio Castroneves points to the locations of his two likenesses on the Borg-Warner Trophy. A third spot is reserved. More are projected.
Castroneves on May 24 became the ninth driver with at least three Indianapolis 500 victories, taking control of the race in the final 10 laps to lead Panther Racing’s Dan Wheldon and Andretti Green Racing’s Danica Patrick across the yard of bricks in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The win earned Castroneves a record $3,048,005 from an overall purse of $14,315,315.
Yet soon after the euphoria fades, the goal, as four-time 500-Mile Race winner Rick Mears says, is always the next one.
“You realize that not a lot of people ever get an opportunity to run here, let alone win it,” said Mears, now a consultant to Team Penske. “The odds of winning it more than once are very slim. Then you learn more about it, more about what it takes and how difficult it really is to do. It makes each one special but you always want another.”
Mears joins Al Unser and A.J. Foyt as the four-time winners. Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser each have three victories.
“I feel honored to be in this category of drivers,” Castroneves said. “But without a team, without good people surrounding you, you cannot make that. Like I said many times, Team Penske has (15 times) so they are prepared for this race.”
At age 34, Castroneves will have numerous opportunities. Unser was five days shy of his 48th birthday when he won his fourth Indy 500 in 1987. A.J. Foyt was 42 (1977) and Mears was 39 (1991).
“You can’t be thinking about five without making three,” Castroneves said. “We just made three and now thinking about the fourth. But I will think about it, dream about it, but we’ve got to work for it. Certainly we have the team to do that, but we have a long way. Right now for me, I’m just going to enjoy this moment because it’s very special.”
Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner and driver of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Dallara-Honda, earned $1,258,805. Danica Patrick finished an Indianapolis 500-career best third in the No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola Dallara-Honda and earned $763,305.
Townsend Bell and Will Power also posted Indy career-best finishes of fourth and fifth, respectively. Bell earned $445,305 while Power collected a check for $345,305.