The smile is unmistakable and his appeal without question. Helio Castroneves is a highly-paid pitchman, Dancing With The Stars champion, and, oh yeah, a 3-time Indianapolis 500 winner. Wednesday's announcement that Castroneves is moving to Roger Penske's new Acura sport car team is evidence the popular 42-year-old driver has no plans to slow it down.
Castroneves move, which had been rumored for weeks, pairs him with Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron in driving one of two Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International for the team. Acura Team Penske is expected to make their competition debut at the IMSA Rolex 24 race at Daytona in January 2018.
"Helio has been a valuable member of Team Penske for almost 20 years, and we are looking forward to sharing more success together," said team owner Roger Penske and reported by Autoweek.com. "Competitors like Helio, Rick Mears and Mark Donohue are what have made Team Penske what it is today. This represents a new challenge for him, and I know he is excited about the opportunity."
Castroneves has previously driven for Team Penske sports car. In five starts, he's sat on the pole twice and had three podium finishes. He says the move to racing full time is something he couldn't pass up.
"Helping Roger, the team and everyone with Acura start this program and build it from the ground up will be another big challenge and a great opportunity in my career," Castroneves said. "I am proud of everything we have accomplished together in IndyCar, and now I am focused on helping to develop the ARX-05 to try and win the 24 Hours of Daytona and the IMSA championship in 2018 with Acura."
The move marks the end to Castroneves 20 years of racing full time in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but what a career. He's been in the top 5 in the season-ending rankings 14 times. He's been on the pole 50 times and taken the checkered flag 30 times. And as for those 3 Indy 500 wins? Castroneves says he's going for a 4th title next May.
"I'm also excited to get a chance to race again for Team Penske at the Indianapolis 500. That race is near and dear to my heart, and trying to become the fourth four-time winner is something I really want to accomplish in my career. We've come so close the last few years, and with this team, I know we will have a great opportunity to try and make some history."
IndyCar obviously is thrilled one of the sport's most popular drivers will be back for their signature event, tweeting out support.