Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Helio Castroneves finds bliss behind wheel

Helio Castroneves sat in his business office in Miami on Tuesday, sorting through the mundane, zero mph tasks of being a race car driver that once might have bored him. He'd knock out a few phone calls, endorse a few bills, think about packing for this weekend's IndyCar race in Kansas City, Kan. He was loving it. Just four days after being acquitted on federal tax evasion charges that could have sent him, sister/business manager Kati and his attorney, Alan Miller, to prison for six years, and two days following his return to Team Penske's No. 3 car after worrying that his career was over, the two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and a Dancing with the Stars champion was starting over. At age 33, he said, he is new again.

How nice is it to get back to everyday business?

You don't understand. For six months it was very difficult. You know how much I like to talk, but in those six months I had to let people talk for me. It was the hardest thing. I really say it was a nightmare. I can't believe I woke up and I am back again doing what I love the most, what I've been doing since I was 11 years old. That for me, that's my life. To be back in a race car, it was a great relief.

When did it sink in that these issues were behind you?

I guess when I was in the race car (the first practice at Long Beach), my first lap around the track. I mentioned to the guys, "Is this a dream?" and they were like, "No this is a reality." I was pushing the throttle warming the car up. For me, it was an awesome feeling. It was like putting on a glove that you always like. Talking racing terms, really cool. I was so relieved.

As much as you appreciate being back, is it tough knowing you'll have a tremendous task getting back into championship contention having missed the season opener in St. Petersburg?

Honestly, the way I am thinking, I need to get back on the rhythm. Long Beach was great. We got a top 10 (he finished seventh) and now our goal is to finish a little bit better every race. Hey, why would I change now? If I have a chance to think about winning, I am. The only thing I am changing now is probably more personal, (to) see little things different. I appreciate racing even more now, packing my bags, going to the airport, things like that is becoming much more fun.

What was waiting for a verdict like?

Every morning, it was very difficult to get up, about 5:30 in the morning, not getting any sleep because you always had the knot in the stomach which, man, it was the worst feeling. About midday you start feeling a little bit better because no news is good news. Toward the end of the day, then it's "great, let's go back to another day." Counting the days was very, very difficult. About (last) Thursday they found the first verdicts and we were wondering what this was going to be and where we were going to go. It was hard to see it still wasn't over yet, and when we got to Friday it was just playing with my emotions. It was very difficult to control it. I was very fatigued mentally and emotionally. It was hard to control.

How did you handle the stress?

On Jan. 12, I was 159 pounds and I am about 146 now. I lost weight although it doesn't look like it. I guess that's good for racing, isn't it?

Do you think your fame, greatly boosted by Dancing with the Stars, helped or stood to hurt you when you were on trial?

I don't know. I just don't know which way it went. Certainly what I heard, to be in this position, it wasn't because I was an ordinary person. That's what I understood and that's what they told me. Now, the only thing I'm thinking is giving back what the fans gave me, which is a lot of prayers and a lot of love.

Does coffee taste better, the sunset look more pretty these days?

Big time. People sometimes don't appreciate the small things. They should go out in their back yard and see the garden and the grass and the sky. Wow, I appreciate to be here. Appreciate your health. So many things you never thought you'd think about. I always thought I was a good person, but I think I am a much better person now to have gone through this.

Helio Castroneves finds bliss behind wheel 04/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 6:35am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis


    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  2. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  3. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”
  4. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. laughing right along after comical dive

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Souza being Souza.

    That seemed to be the best way to describe the entertaining — and comically bad — dive Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. attempted in Friday's game, and the good humor he showed in handling the fallout, including a standing ovation his next at-bat from the …

  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Twins game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi had to battle without his best stuff again, which is becoming a more common occurrence, leading to long at-bats — including 13 pitches to Kennys Vargas in the fifth — and running up his pitch count to 118 without finishing the sixth.