Helio Castroneves has climbed the fence three more times in twelve starts from downtown St. Petersburg. It is his favorite event on the IndyCar calendar.

Unless, of course he was there as a spectator at the IndyCar season-opening event. Castroneves didn’t like that at all in the four previous seasons.

The Brazilian stated, “It was absolutely terrible.”

Castroneves was forced to leave IndyCar in 2017 after helping Team Penske launch their sports car program. However, he didn’t really exit the series on his terms. Castroneves said to anyone who would listen when he was asked by St. Pete officials to be the grand marshal for 2018, his first year of IndyCar.

“When I was grand marshal, everyone said, ‘Man. You should be (racing).'” I was like, ‘Yeah. Thanks. Castroneves stated, “But that doesn’t help.” “But now, we’re back.”

He is indeed back and performing at the highest level possible in his long career.

Castroneves raced his way back to IndyCar with Meyer Shank Racing. This team hired Castroneves to run the Indianapolis 500 last year as it expanded to two cars. Castroneves won the race, his fourth Indy 500 win and was then hired to drive the No. 06 for the entire 2022 season.

Now 46, he’s a quarter-century removed from his first American open-wheel race. But he is ready to compete for wins and possibly even the championship. Roger Penske never gave him an IndyCar title, and his only professional title was the IMSA Sports Car title in 2020.

Castroneves started 2021 with a win at Daytona’s Rolex 24, followed by his victory at Indy May, and then closed the year with a full time ride. Guess what Shank used him last month in the Rolex lineup? Castroneves won his second consecutive watch.

Roger Penske, his former boss, says he now has four Indy 500 rings as well as a pair Rolexes.

I told him to have fun and that he won three of those races with me. Penske, now the IndyCar owner, said, “Don’t forget your old friend.” He’s so energetic and exciting and fans love him. It’s great to have him back in IndyCar and to see the passion he brings with his new team. Meyer Shank is another solid team.

Shank was rehabilitated by Castroneves’ win in Indy 500. Penske attempted to change Simon Pagenaud’s IndyCar status to sports cars, but Pagenaud signed with Meyer Shank. He’s now reunited with his former Penske teammate Castroneves, and the paddock is aware of the potential Meyer Shank holds each race weekend.

Pagenaud stated that there is a lot of buzz about the race team at the moment, which is great to be a part of. It’s scary, but it’s happening fast. All the ingredients are there, all we have to do is put them together.

Pagenaud was fourth fastest during Friday’s IndyCar season opening practice. Castroneves was eleventh. Romain Grosjean, his first time with Andretti Autosport, paced the session. Andretti teammate Colton Herta was next, as was Will Power from Team Penske.

Castroneves anticipates being in the mix on Sunday.

“It’s not like I’ve been sitting on the couch. He said that he has been racing in IMSA and learning from other series. “Honestly, St. Pete has always been my favorite place. This Sunday, I am looking forward to it.