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Helio Castroneves inducted to Team Penske Hall of Fame

Castroneves Team Penske Hall

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 01: Helio Castroneves of Brazil, driver of the #3 Team Penske Dallara Chevrolet, celebrates with team owner Roger Penske after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit - Dual II race at Belle Isle Park on June 1, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Helio Castroneves became the ninth inductee to the Team Penske Hall of Fame on Friday.

With Castroneves’ longtime teammate and friend Gil de Ferran in tow, Penske’s President Tim Cindric traveled to Florida to honor the driver with the longest tenure in the organization. Castroneves has been a Team Penske driver for 21 seasons.

Much of the remainder of the organization attended the ceremony virtually-a sign of the times as the country continues to battle novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“What an incredible surprise,” said Castroneves in a press release. “I was hoping to visit the Team Penske shop in North Carolina to see everyone after the season, but we couldn’t do it with all of the COVID-19 restrictions. It was so great to connect with everyone virtually.

“I have so many friends and people that are really like family to me after 21 years together. That was awesome, but for TC (Cindric) to then announce that I was being inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame, wow. What an amazing honor. I want to thank Roger (Penske), TC and everyone at Team Penske that I’ve worked with over the years. It has been an incredible ride and this is such a special tribute.”

Castroneves began his Penske career 2000 and was immediately successful. In 2001 and 2002 he became the first driver in the history of the sport to win in his first two Indianapolis 500 starts. The next year it was only his teammate de Ferran that kept him from making it three in a row; Castroneves finished 0.299 seconds behind him in second.

But Castroneves would return to Indy 500 glory in 2009 and become one of only 10 drivers to win the marquee race three times.

United States - IndyCar - MAVTV 500

Helio Castroneves (Brazil) and Team Penske owner Roger Penske (l-r) during practice for the IZOD IndyCar Series MAVTZ 500 at Auto Club Speedway. (Photo by Paul Mounce/Corbis via Getty Images)

Corbis via Getty Images

After scoring 24 IndyCar wins, Castroneves transitioned to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2018 with one win that season at Mid-Ohio. Last year he won four times including three consecutive. That was enough to give him and teammate Ricky Taylor the 2020 DPi championship. It was the perfect ending for a team that shuttered its sports car program at the end of the year.

After 21 seasons and 344 combined career starts, Castroneves produced 36 wins (fifth in team history), 60 poles (first in team history), 107 podium results (first in team history) and 160 top-five finishes (second in team history).

“What can I say, Helio and I came to Team Penske at the end of 1999 and our relationship goes beyond racing,” said Cindric. “We have had a lot of fun together over the years and it is hard to imagine this team without him. He really defines what it is to be a ‘team player.’ Even though he will be competing against us next year, he can always count on us to be there for him.”

Castroneves will continue to add to his racing legacy with six IndyCar races next year with Meyer Shank Racing at Barber Motorsports Park, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500, the Harvest Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the Grand Prix of Portland and the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in September.

Castroneves joins previous Team Penske Hall of Fame honorees: Roger Penske (2016), Mark Donohue (2016), Rick Mears (2017), Karl Kainhofer (2017), Rusty Wallace (2018), Walter Czarnecki (2018), Don Miller (2019) and Dan Luginbuhl (2019).