Sunday, June 26, 2022

4-time Indy 500 Champion secures NASCAR opportunity in unique way

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A veteran competitor has just secured a unique opportunity. Four-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves won the Superstar Racing Experience season opener, maintaining his end of a bargain that included a chance to compete in NASCAR.

Camping World SRX Series CEO Don Hawk has struck a deal with Castroneves ahead of the 2022 season. Hawk told him to win one of the races on his part-time schedule and he would use his connections to get him a spot to race at Daytona International Speedway. Castroneves has delivered, now Hawk has confirmed Racing America that he will pay.

“This year for me to race SRX Hawk said, ‘Look, win a race and I’ll help you find a ride for Daytona and I told him we had a deal.’ Castroneves said Racing America’s Matt Weaver after his win. “Now he has to make it on his side but it’s so cool to be here and what a great opportunity.”

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The four-time Indy 500 Champion isn’t driving the entire 2022 season schedule. That’s because he snagged a full-time spot for the 2022 NTT IndyCar season, so his focus is on chasing strong finishes in Meyer Shank Racing entry #06 to fight.

The 47-year-old wasn’t actually on the original entry list for the start of the SRX series. There were 12 riders starting, including Ryan Newman and Bill Elliott. However, the series added a 13th at the last minute after Castroneves bought his own ticket on a commercial flight to get to Pensacola.

The car Castroneves drove during the 2021 SRX Series season was available. It just needed some prep work and the vinyl wrap. The SRX Series crew were able to get the car ready in time for practice and Castroneves used it to claim their first win of the year and a huge opportunity.

No information is available yet on the team that will help Castroneves get his first NASCAR start, or if he will qualify for the Xfinity Series or the Cup Series. He didn’t win the SRX series until June 18, but the former Speedway Motorsports executive at Hawk has numerous connections to make that happen.

An interesting twist is that NASCAR just rolled out new rules that will benefit the NTT IndyCar Series veteran. The new sections — 13.2.7, 13.2.7.1 and 13.2.7.2. – allows a guest driver to attend a test session before competing in the Cup Series for the first time, provided they have elite credentials from another motorsport series.

Castroneves definitely meets these requirements. He has made 286 starts in the NTT IndyCar Series, celebrated 25 wins and 84 podiums. That includes a four-win season in 2006 when he finished third in the championship standings.

Before participating in a test session, however, Castroneves must first overcome two hurdles. He must compete in a Cup Series event — if that’s the series he’s competing in for his debut — and the team providing the seat for him must request a voucher from NASCAR.

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