Racing is a unique sport. After all, in what other sport do you want your team to do well but you don’t necessarily root for your teammates?
Football, if you’re a backup quarterback? Maybe?
“It’s tough,” three-time Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “You want to be your own teammate. You want to be the one.”
Sometimes you can’t be. Castroneves races for Team Penske, along with several other elite drivers, including Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. They’re all teammates, but they’re all opponents, too.
Montoya, for example, won the Indianapolis 500 last month, while Power finished second. Castroneves was seventh.
“When you work with an amazing organization – Roger Penske is my boss and my (strategist), so when you see the guy super happy, it’s contagious,” Castroneves said. “I’m not happy for Juan Pablo, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for the team. And if you ask the drivers, (they’ll say) the same: You want to beat each other up. You want to be the first. It’s amazing. The group of talent we have in our guys, it’s phenomenal. I have the best teammates, best drivers. So if I beat them, I’m doing something really good.”
Castroneves and Power actually got into a crash recently – accidentally, of course. Those moments would be scary for most people, but for Castroneves, it’s just part of the gig, much like getting hit by a 98-mile-per-hour fastball is a fact of life for major leaguers.
“It’s racing,” Castroneves said. “You know the risks. It’s involved. However, if you guys go to YouTube and check it out, I did have a huge accident at Indy. A car flips over. You got to check it out. This is me. I went airborne – I would say about 12 to 15 feet. Amazing, amazing, amazing. I wasn’t even sore the next day. It was a big accident.”
Non-competitive drivers, like Brandon Tierney, have been in car accidents where time seems to stand still and events unfold in slow motion. That can happen in competitive racing, but not always.
“It depends,” Castroneves said. “In that one on Sunday, it was really quick. I didn’t have time to react because a guy just all of a sudden came into me. But this one that we are watching right now on YouTube, it was a matrix movie. I was very lucky. Very, very lucky. At the end of the day, it shows how safe those cars are. And again, I’m lucky as well.”
Castroneves was also asked about the state of racing. The sport isn’t as popular as it used to be with A.J. Foyt and Al Unser, but there is still a strong following with IndyCar Series and NASCAR.
“It’s becoming more wide open,” Castroneves said. “I believe . .. we’re going in the right direction.”
Castroneves, if you’re curious, dabbles in other sports as well. He’s a “terrible” golfer, but he’s not too bad at tennis.
“That is completely the opposite of golf,” said Castroneves, 40. “Tennis, I do play well. I like (playing by) the net, (but) it depends. If I stay a long time without going to the net, I’m a little slow. Then I start working a little bit. But I like to play.”