COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The newest face at Meyer Shank Racing has nearly as many Indy 500 victories as his new team has IndyCar seasons.
The Pataskala-based race team announced Tuesday that three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves will drive six races in a second car for the currently one-car organization.
Castroneves, 45, will pilot the new No. 06 Honda at the Grand Prix of Alabama, the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race in August, the Grand Prix of Portland and the 2021 season finale at Laguna Seca.
“The idea to start off with six races for the second Indy car was another strategic plan,” MSR owner Michael Shank said Tuesday in a release. “As I’ve always said in the past, we will never bite off more than we can chew. It’s always been one of our goals to expand the IndyCar program, and this is the best way that we can start that.”
Castroneves, a four-time IndyCar championship runner-up, will join teammate Jack Harvey, who has driven MSR’s No. 60 Honda since 2017 when the team ran only the Indy 500. Harvey ran six races in 2018, 10 races in 2019 and the full season in 2020, in which he finished 15th in points.
Shank and MSR co-owner Jim Meyer told reporters Tuesday that the roadmap for the No. 06 car will follow that of the No. 60: six races next year, ten races in 2022 and maybe the full season in 2023.
“I think the point Mike has taught me is not to let your passion get ahead of your plan, so we’re very careful,” Meyer said, “We are not going to go any faster than we have the proper amount of funding.”
Castroneves, a native of Brazil, retired from full-time open-wheel racing after the 2017 IndyCar season but has returned since to run most races at Indianapolis. He filled in for an injured Oliver Askew during October’s doubleheader at the IMS road course, driving for Arrow McLaren SP.
“I can’t stop smiling because obviously I’m extremely excited,” Castroneves told reporters Tuesday about the MSR announcement. “It’s been an amazing couple of months, no question, but we have a lot of work to do, but I’m ready for that challenge.”
Since 2018, Castroneves has raced full-time in IMSA driving a prototype for Team Penske. He and Ricky Taylor won the DPi class at IMSA’s September race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Castroneves won his three Indy 500’s driving for Penske, in 2001, 2002 and 2009.
“Having a guy like Hélio on the team will be a big asset for us,” Shank said. “He’s a proven race winner and brings a ton of knowledge to the team. He’s someone that we will be able to learn from. This past season was definitely a tough one for us, but Jack proved that he has the pace to be running up front, and going into 2021 we [are] certainly aiming to get back up on the podium.”
When asked if a multi-year deal with the 45-year-old Brazilian is possible, Shank said “we’ll go forward with Hélio if he wants to,” noting “it takes a little it to get the gel to happen” when a team brings on a new driver.
“I just like hungry guys. I like hungry. I don’t care how old you are,” Shank said.