Race Weekend Essentials: Indy 500 legend Helio Castroneves

Only one driver in the Indianapolis 500 can break the record and become he driver with the most wins in the history of the event.

Helio Castroneves is always a fan-favourite at the Speedway and on Sunday he’ll try to win his fifth Indy 500 driving for Meyer Shank Racing from 20th on the grid.

The Brazilian driver sat down with Podium Life ahead of his 23rd 500 to discuss what’s in his Race Weekend Essentials and to talk about the lifestyle of one of the event’s most successful drivers.

Photo: Penske Entertainment

Is there one thing you absolutely can’t leave for a race weekend without?

It’s something silly but it’s important. I have a protection for my elbow. It’s like a sleeve, and it’s the same one from 20 years ago! And, unfortunately, because we’re always turning right and left, obviously, and your elbow’s always rubbing into the cockpit.

And man, back then, with high downforce, they become blistered. And so since then I have to have it and then there is no issue. In fact, the Grand Prix was the opposite elbow, we’ve never had the situation and I need to buy another one now. That’s something that I that I can’t get out of the house without it.

Do you have anything superstitious?

I don’t think it is a superstition, I think is routine, because I’ve been doing this for so long, it just doesn’t feel right. Like, for example, I like to have the radio [headphones] with me, sometimes before going to the grid, because it’s just sort of like, blocking out the noise.

If you see even in interviews I still have it in. It just feels like time to prep for the big race or any race, actually.

Photo: Penske Entertainment – Karl Zemlin

Probably, beginning of my career, I used to have the same underwear, the same with socks. Over the years, it’s just like, if you prepare yourself well it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. As long as it’s comfortable, it’s fine!

What tech is in your bag?

I have a reMarkable, that’s great for me. Back then, obviously, 20 years ago, we didn’t have that, we had a notebook, actually, probably 20 of those! I used to go to FedEx like, ‘can you copy these’ and make like 10 of those for every race.

Now, finally, I changed that to reMarkable, it’s more for the sports car when I started doing that and some of my team-mates start making fun of it. For me typing sucks. So that’s one thing.

What about shoes, sunglasses, clothing? I know you wear a lot of team wear now

It helps a lot when you’re in a motorhome that you can leave some clothing there. But it’s interesting, with Penske it was different you had to have a jacket, nice pants just for some sort of formal dinner.

With Meyer Shank is a little more relaxed. Everybody’s like no if you want to go to an event, go with uniforms.

At the Thermal, I had some phenomenal sunglass, my wife just gave me these Cartiers. Very expensive ones. I used once and then I lost them. So upset. And so now I’m like that’s it, I’m not going to spend more time buying new sunglasses because I always lose them!

We noticed Concours Club on your hat lately, what’s that?

Photo: Penske Entertainment – Joe Skibinski

Well, Concours Club is an amazing club in Miami. Basically it’s club membership for people that enjoy racing.

So it’s a racetrack in the middle of Miami, super high end, great restaurant, great garages. And it’s incredible because instead of playing golf or playing tennis, you go out there and drive.

But the best part of it, we take a lot of friends and sponsors and potential sponsors. We have dinner and then go out and have some fun on the race track. So it’s pretty cool. It’s a super cool opportunity for people who don’t understand about racing to try it.

Do you have anything for recovery? Like a Theragun or anything like that?

Photo: Penske Entertainment – Chris Jones

The Theragun guy, he started, this is like probably seven or eight years ago. He went to Long Beach. I introduced him to Roger [Penske], and we we basically made some notes and they’re like, it’s a little noisy at the beginning.

Now I think he’s sold part of the company and it’s huge, it’s really well known. I do have a Theragun in my bus, my house, everywhere in fact, I was using this morning.

For me it’s the traps and the shoulders as well. Especially the sports car because the position that you sit in this more straight and not so much laid down.

I’m always having issues with my shoulder there and that is a great machine for releasing the pressure out and especially sometimes with the neck in IndyCar. It does help a lot with the muscle pain.

Photo: Penske Entertainment – John Cote

What about protein powders and things like that?

So Hammer nutrition is the one that I tend to use. They’re great guys. I met in California as well. I normally didn’t have much, but they do great, great, great stuff. I don’t take before the race.

I take after because before the race my stomach is so used to normal things, water. I tried to eat before, an hour and a half, two hours. Something light. I don’t drink much during the race believe it or not. I like to have my own breakfast, cereal, granola.

You’re with Bell helmets, have you always been with them?

I had a Shoei in 1995 and someone is selling it for $4,000 and it’s actually the same. It’s crazy. Somehow it ended up on Ebay. But after that I moved to Bell.

Did they do the thing where they scan your head to do the helmet interior?
They did, they do a custom for me the interior. I still have a bigger opening. I drove 2021 with a small version, I didn’t like it, I’m still wearing the bigger one.

What about the bus you travel with?

I finally joined the other drivers. REV group, great partnership. It’s amazing because you actually have your house in the track. And the family is what is important because, sometimes the hotel’s great, when I didn’t have kids, no problem.

But now having kids and stuff, it’s such a huge help for the wife and to take care of them and they can be in and out wherever they want to be.