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Mears Thinks Castroneves Could Be First To Five

Helio Castroneves isn’t getting anywhere with Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

“How cool would it be to win the fourth, do you think guys?” he playfully asks the fellow Indianapolis 500 winners.

The silence eggs on Castroneves, who is seeking to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears on the Mount Rushmore as four-time 500 Mile Race champions.

“It’s been 20 years since the last guy so I think it would be really cool, do you think guys?” Castroneves persists.

Again, there’s a brief silence, tinged with hands muting their laughter.

“Every driver dreams of winning the Indianapolis 500. I’m just fortunate to be the guy in this position and I’ll do everything I can to repeat the result from last year,” he says.

On that, Dixon and Franchitti can agree.

“I’m a driver, I want to go out there and do my best, and Team Penske wants to do the same thing,” Castroneves says. “I don’t feel pressure, I feel honored.”

On that, Mears can agree, and has made it a point in conversations with Castroneves.

“Treat it as any other race,” Mears said, “even though it isn’t.”

Mears, in 1991 the last person to win a fourth Indy 500, is a Team Penske consultant and one of Castroneves’ spotters around the 2.5-mile oval.

“I think it’s great he has that opportunity, and he has the opportunity to win more than four,” says Mears, who drove the No. 3 car to his fourth victory. “At his age (Castroneves turned 35 on May 10), the team he’s with he could break that record. That’s what records are for. If I could help be a part of that, it would be great, too.”

Mears, whose first victory at the Brickyard came in 1979, says pressure is inherent in the sport, and the best make it a non-issue.

“I’d like to say I didn’t feel anything because that’s the way I tried to keep it,” he says. “You let the pressure affect you, and that’s when you start doing things you don’t normally do or shouldn’t do. I just tried to keep Indy as another race on another track, period. When I was running, it wasn’t Indy, it was a race. When I was running, I didn’t know if it was for a fourth win or third, and I think that’s the way he looks at it.”

Mears made a surprise announcement of his retirement at the Penske Racing team Christmas party in December 1992. He was 41 years old and had crashed out of the ‘500’ for the first time in his career five months earlier.

“The hardest part was after I retired was when I started thinking about the chance at getting the fifth,” he says. “But it wasn’t for my benefit, it was for the team. I knew how much they wanted a fifth. I didn’t do it for records. That was something to look at down the road. So I felt I was letting the team down. I’m not going to get that fifth one anyway because my heart’s not in it. When push came to shove, I had to go with my desire, not the team’s desire.”


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