Three time IndyCar champ Helio Castroneves was doing some interviews for this season’s “Dancing with the Stars.” The Season 7 winner was eliminated from the All Stars season, but returned for one last dance the finale. We took the opportunity to get his thoughts on his latest IndyCar season and plans for the future.
CraveOnline: What did you think of your comeback routine they gave you on the “Dancing with the Stars” finale?
Helio Castroneves: I was very happy that they gave the opportunity for every couple that got eliminated to come back and dance. I was even happier that I was able to learn one more dance with Chelsie from scratch actually, which I thought was pretty cool. It was great. It was a great night to be honest. Great production, a lot of intensity for sure and it was great to be part of it.
If that’s your last dance, would you be satisfied with that or do you think you might come back again?
No, I believe my dancing career is on hold probably, if not stopped. It was great, I had a great time and it was really good, but back to racing, focus on racing and the championship that I really want.
How do you look back on the 2012 IndyCar season?
This year was a very good season for me, especially coming from 2011, a very difficult season. Coming back and battling for the championship, not clinch it, but at least we were there, winning races like we have always been. So it was a great season for us.
Now, fourth place is really good, but you must want another championship.
Yeah, once I was there, it’s like any other sport. You want to make sure you do it again and that’s what I want to do. I want to win the big one, not only the championship, but also the Indianapolis 500, which is probably the most important one.
But as an athlete, can you still enjoy a season where you place?
You want to improve and that’s quite a lot. I won two races, thought I could have won two more and those make a difference. You want to make sure, what can I fix to make that happen? So we’re looking, we’re regrouping as a team, try to go one more season with Team Penske. I’m really happy on my 14th season, which is very unusual for a driver to be that long in a team and for a team to keep a driver that long, so great combination, I couldn’t be happier with Roger Penske.
If you conclude your relationship with Penske with another championship, what happens next? Do you look for another sponsor?
My intention is to stay with the team as long as I can because I know the hard work and the equipment that they gave me is a first class operation. So it’s hard for you to change something that might not even be the same. For me it’s all about dealing with that. Roger is not only a great guy, but an incredible human being. I’m just happy to be part of his organization.
How did you get involved with the Stock Car Brazil race on December 9?
Well, stock car in Brazil is something that’s growing quite a lot. Shell and I had a good relationship here through Roger in America, so we had an opportunity to do something down there as well which is going to be my first try. Normally I drive open wheel. It’s going to be interesting to see me having the roof on top of my head.
What are your expectations, or how are you adjusting your strategy?
It’s hard. It’s like going to “Dancing” without knowing how to dance. Or let’s put it this way, it’s learning a new dance move. I’ve just got to go with the flow. My expectation is to be competitive. That will be my goal, to be competitive. It’s going to be hard with a minimal amount of time on the car, not much practice. I’m just jumping [in] literally, the race weekend starts Friday, I’m getting there Thursday so I’m going to have minimal practice time. You’ve got to be realistic but you’ve got to be there too so you never know what’s going to happen. Racing is always full of surprises so we never know.
But this is just for the experience of doing it, so it’ll be fun.
Oh yeah, yeah. Absolutely. It’s always good to try something. That’s my philosophy. You’ve got to try. If you don’t like it, at least you tried.
What are your strategies for 2013?
Well, we’ve got to put ourselves in a position to battle for the championship again. One day this door will open. That means be consistent like we’ve been this year and execute some of the strategy of the racing, and be a little bit better in qualifying. Those are the little things that we’ll probably adjust and I believe helping that will help us achieve our goal.
Are there any new strategies you’re working on?
Not sure yet. Related to the team crews, I believe we might change a few people but at this point, our crew is the same and we’re in good shape.
Do you imagine a day you might retire?
Not yet. As long as I still have the fire, I am competitive. I’m going to be doing what I’m doing. I love it.
Where are your favorite tracks in the world to drive?
I really love Indianapolis. It’s a very challenging place, very difficult place but when you achieve your goal, it’s the most thrilling experience in the world. I have to say, in California they do make great race tracks. Laguna Seca, I really enjoy driving there as well but I’m sure there’s places that I haven’t been yet. In Japan also they produce great race tracks too, but my favorite is Indianapolis.
For me, traveling just wipes me out. How do you keep up your strength and stamina for racing when you have to go around the world?
You said it, the racing. That’s what I love to do. It’s my job, it’s my passion. That’s what I’ve been doing my entire life. Sometimes the perk of the job is you can go different places, but most of the time I feel more comfortable on the race track. Yes, it’s time consuming traveling sometimes, you just want to relax. I guess when you’re home if you have more than a week, week and a half, you’re like, “Okay, time to travel.”
So racing is a cure for jetlag?
Is there any new auto technology you’re hoping for?
Yes, there’s a bunch of it. I think internet is coming into play big time in cars. I’m sure voice activation is going to need to be a little better so that you can actually drive and do your research, but other than that I think the auto industry is doing an incredible job on fuel economy. That’s why our cars today, we went from eight cylinder to six cylinder and Chevy has put the Twin-Turbos, so we’re trying to downsize the size of the engine so that we can have better fuel economy but still with good power. That’s probably where we’re going, so lighter cars to go farther mileage. That’s what most of the industry is going for.
You want your car to be Wi-fi enabled?
[Laughs] In race cars, it’ll be tough. The rules actually prevent us to have some type of technologies, but we already have a GPS in our car that can see where we’re going on the racetrack so that’s what happens.
How are gas prices affecting racing?
Well, I guess it’s affecting everyone. Not only racing, but the cost grows high and practice, racing, everything goes high. That’s why it’s important to have good solid partners with you, but at the end of the day, you just go with the flow. That’s why we’re trying to make better cars in fuel mileage so if they continue rising, we still can go a long distance with less gallons.
What do you drive off the track?
I have a Chevy Tahoe. I’m sponsored by Chevy, plus I have a little girl so I guess I need a lot of space to have all the stuff in the car.
How fast can you get the Tahoe up to?
I drive very carefully. I don’t want to have problems. The speed limit is always my meter.
What are the best movies about racing?
I think the one that’s coming up in 2013 called Turbo. It’s going to be a great movie for kids, hopefully inspire kids about Indy 500. I believe that’s going to be a great movie to educate in a fun way.
Are you in that?
Well, I did a voiceover. I’m not sure if they’re going to put it in or not but I did a voiceover. Hopefully we have a little bit of it.
Was Days of Thunder good, was Cars good?
I thought Days of Thunder was nice, Cars absolutely was great. I think an old classic movie, the Steve McQueen movie was incredible too so a lot of people passionate about cars know what I’m talking about.
Le Mans was great.
Do you enjoy video games about racing?
Not much. I know there are some great simulators but for me I don’t think it’s that accurate so I try to avoid those types of things.
Photo Credit: Getty