Castroneves Returns To Indy
October 19, 2001 | 8:50 A.M. EST
Castroneves, a CART FedEx Championship Series regular, won the Indy 500 in his first try. After crossing the finish line, the young Brazilian exited his car and climbed the fence on the front stretch.
There were no celebrations Thursday, but Castroneves was clearly happy to be back at the historic 2.5-mile oval in Speedway, Ind.
“I have a fantastic memory of winning, and it's very nice to be back, to be honest," Castroneves said. “It's really, really nice. I enjoy being at the track again.
“I'm very glad that I'm able to come back here with more experience, but - there's always but - I still have a lot to learn.”
Castroneves may have a lot to learn, but he was third quickest Thursday with a fast lap of 221.311 mph in the No. 68 Dallara-Aurora. Jaques Lazier turned in the fastest lap for the second straight day with a 224.070 mph lap in Team Menard’s No. 2 Dallara-Aurora. Former Formula One driver Johnny Herbert was third fastest at 221.988 mph in Heritage Motorsports’ No. 35 G Force-Infiniti.
A lot of the attention went to Castroneves, however. The likeable driver is nicknamed Spiderman for his fence-climbing race celebrations, something he’d like to do again.
"I will be defending my race victory, of course,” Castroneves said. “I want it more than anything else now. I want to see my face on the ticket.”
Like hundreds of other drivers who have competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Castroneves is finding Turn 1 to be a challenge to master.
“It's still a corner that is very difficult,” he said. “It's very tricky, very tricky. I'm still trying to figure it out, but that's why it's such a challenging place. Because even though I won this year in May, it doesn't mean that I have this place figured out. No way.
“Different situations will happen, and that's why we're here. Last year, we were here early in the season to make sure that we start getting ready for the preparation for the next year, and that's why we do it again.”
Herbert has been at Indy before, too, but that was on Indy’s road course last year in the Formula One race. The Indy 500 is a different monster, but one he’s happy to confront.
“It's one of the races I've always wanted to do since I was a little kid,” Herbert said. “Formula One was one of the things I wanted to do, and I've done that. I always wanted to do Le Mans, and I've won Le Mans. So it'd be nice to finish this off here as well, but you try to get the whole season, as well.
“It would be great to get the right experience running up to Indy and then run the rest of the year for the championship. It would be nice to win a championship and the 500, as well. I know it's not that simple, but that would be the plan.”
Former winners Buddy Lazier and Eddie Cheever were also testing on Thursday, along with rookies Chris Menninga, Rick Treadway, Jon Herb and Brandon Erwin.
Castroneves, Erwin and Herbert will test again Friday at IMS.
1. Jaques Lazier, Dallara-Aurora, 40.1660 seconds, 224.070 mph
2. Johnny Herbert, G Force-Infiniti, 40.5296, 222.068
3. Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Aurora, 40.6668, 221.311
4. Buddy Lazier, Dallara-Aurora, 40.8367, 220.390
5. Brandon Erwin, Dallara-Aurora, 41.1009, 218.973
6. Rick Treadway, G Force-Aurora, 41.4557, 217.099
7. Chris Menninga, Dallara-Aurora, 41.9672, 214.453
8. Jon Herb, G Force-Aurora, 41.9773, 214.402
No speed available for Eddie Cheever Jr.