11 days ago,Helio Castroneves was sitting in the hospital in his native Brazil watching as doctors stitched up his legs and treated the battering he received to his upper torso and neck after experiencing a violent crash on the streets of Ribeirao Preto, but was able to take part in his first session since the accident today in Sonoma without any lingering effects slowing him down.
“I'm so happy I was able to run this morning without any problems at all,” the Team Penske driver told RACER.
The three-time Indy 500 winner was competing in the Brazilian Stock Car series one week after the Mid-Ohio IndyCar race and experienced a brake failure, sending him hard into the barrier. What could have had a calamitous effect on his IndyCar Series championship bid has turned out to more of a cosmetic nuisance than anything else.
“We overheated the brakes,” he added. "There weren't any long straights to cool the brakes, and we were the first ones out so we found out the hard way about how much brake cooling was needed. The pedal went down all the way. Luckily I was able to get out of the car and tell everybody about what they needed to look at on their cars. I was able to tell the race director that the wall I hit was very close, and I mentioned they should move it. If someone had a mechanical failure they would hit straight on. After I hit, they did move it.”
Asked what his first thoughts were after making contact with the wall, Castroneves said “The first thing was that I need to get out of here and go back to America… It was a very violent hit; I don't recall [ever] hitting that hard. My neck…my back…the good Lord was with me another time and nothing [bad] happened.”
News and footage of his crash during quickly circulated, and Castroneves was quick to calm any fears about his health, but admitted the crash did more damage than he initially realized.
“The (horizontal) dash bar is in a different place than I am used to,” he explained. “It's normally up near your knees, but this one was a lot lower. I think what happened was when I was about to crash, I pulled my knees back, but when I hit, it made my legs swing forward and they both hit the bar really hard with my shins.
“It split both of them open, and one was really bad…you could see the [shin] bone… It wasn't good, but they put some stitches in and brought everything back together. I have to be careful, but everything is fine to drive this weekend, no problem.”
Castroneves enters this weekend's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma with a 31-point lead over Scott Dixon.