Helio Castroneves, 46, wins Indianapolis 500 for fourth time in yet another victory for seniors

At 46 and one of the oldest drivers in the field, Castroneves sprinted along the front stretch of the track for a car-free victory lap for the 135,000 fans in attendance. He pumped his arms in the air and greeted the ecstatic crowd, his burst of emotional energy stopped every few yards by a flood of rivals who rushed out onto the track to congratulate the popular Brazilian rider.

Third place 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud (left) went to the front row to celebrate with Helio Castroneves, his former Penkse Racing teammate, telling him: “Helio, I was coming for you, but if it could not be me, I’m so happy for you! “Paul Sancya / Associated press

Almost everyone on Team Penske rushed to meet Castroneves, including former teammate Will Power, who saw the final scoring pylon and had no idea his longtime friend had won.

“I was looking up and down ‘Who’s 06?’,” Power told Castroneves in a winning embrace. “You are a legend.”

Castroneves became the fourth oldest winner in Indianapolis 500 history, behind Al Unser (47, 1987), Bobby Unser (47, 1981) and Emerson Fittipaldi (46, 1993).

Castroneves spent more than two decades driving for the Penske team and won three Indy 500s with the team. But he was eventually transferred to the sports car program, where he won the IMSA Championship last season before Roger Penske shut down the team and made the business decision to get rid of Castroneves.

Although he was released by Roger Penske from his run at Penske Racing, Helio Castroneves came to Indianapolis with the intention of proving he was not done climbing fences at Indy.
Although he was released by Roger Penske from his run at Penske Racing, Helio Castroneves came to Indianapolis with the intention of proving he was not done climbing fences at Indy.Darron Cummings / Associated press

Spiderman insisted he wasn’t done running yet, and Michael Shank agreed.

He hired Castroneves for the Indy 500 to complete the Meyer Shank Racing one-car team. Perhaps Castroneves would have a chance to win, but he would also strengthen a team that needed veteran leadership on one of the toughest tracks in the world.

Castroneves had been trying since 2009 to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, his former mentor on the Penske team, as the only quadruple winners of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Mears was the last driver to join the club in 1991.

“I love Indianapolis! You guys don’t understand! Fans, you give me energy, ”Castroneves said.

Castroneves was also part of the winning Rolex 24 Daytona sports car team in January, winning the prestigious sports car event for the first time.

“I’ve run two races this year and won two races, I would say it’s pretty good,” said Castroneves, who noted this could be the year for aging veterans.

“I don’t know if it’s a good comparison, but Tom Brady won the Super Bowl and Phil Mickelson won the [PGA Championship] golf so there you go. The older guys keep kicking the butt of the younger ones.

Seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady capped his first season with Tampa Bay by leading the Bucs to their first championship in 18 at 43. Mickelson at 50 became the oldest major winner last week in Kiawah Island, SC

Castroneves’ victory was in stark contrast to the recent theme of young drivers taking control of IndyCar, which now has six different winners from six races this season. Three of them were first time winners and four are drivers aged 24 or under.

Castroneves found himself in a closing duel with one of the young stars, 24-year-old Spaniard Alex Palou, but he definitely passed Palou with two laps to go and beat him by 0.4928 seconds to victory.

When he finally reached the true victory lane – after a kiss from Mario Andretti, a hug from Johnny Rutherford, good wishes from almost every great Indy 500 – Castroneves sipped his bottle of 2% milk, then threw away the rest on his lead.

After taking a first sip of milk, Helio Castroneves throws the rest on his head after his fourth Indy 500 triumph on Sunday.
After taking a first sip of milk, Helio Castroneves throws the rest on his head after his fourth Indy 500 triumph on Sunday.Stacy Revere / Getty

When he rode in the back of a convertible for his true victory lap on the 2.5 mile track, most of the fans were still in the stands cheering on Castroneves.

Former Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, winner of the 2019 Indy, was third, followed by Pato O’Ward, the 21-year-old IndyCar star.

A year ago, no fans were allowed for the race which was delayed from May to August. This year the celebrities were back and the fans were everywhere and they were treated to a victory for one of the most popular drivers in Indy 500 history.

Helio Castroneves completed a last time-honored Victory Lane tradition by embracing the brick yard at the start line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Helio Castroneves completed a last time-honored Victory Lane tradition by embracing the brick yard at the start line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.Andy Lyons / Getty

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