Team Penske: Helio to transition out of INDYCAR

Team owner Roger Penske and Helio Castroneves chat along pit lane prior to the final warmup for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2017. (Joe Skibinski Photo)

MOORESVILLE, North Carolina (WTHR) – Team Penske announced that three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves is leaving INDYCAR full time in the 2018 season, but will race at the 500 in May.

Castroneves will join Penske’s new Acura team with previously-announced drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron in racing one of two Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International (DPi) entries next season.

Castroneves will officially return to sport car competition at this weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

The team will make its competition debut with the new Acura prototype sports cars at IMSA’s 2018 season-opening Rolex 24 race at Daytona in January.

“Helio has been a valuable member of Team Penske for almost 20 years and we are looking forward to sharing more success together,” said Roger Penske in a prepared statement. “Competitors like Helio, Rick Mears and Mark Donohue are what have made Team Penske what it is today. This represents a new challenge for him and I know he is excited about the opportunity. Having established winning drivers like Helio and Juan, teaming up with young and talented racers that know the series like Dane Cameron, will help give our new sports car program a solid foundation as we head into the 2018 season.”

Castroneves finished fourth in this year’s INDYCAR Championship standings, his 14th top-five finish in the season-ending rankings. He notched one win and three poles in 2017. He's spent 18 of his 20 years in INDYCAR driving for Penske.

He's won more than any of Team Penske’s championship open-wheel racing drivers, and two of his three victories in the Indianapolis 500 came back-to-back in his first two starts at Indy in 2001 and 2002. He last won at Indianapolis in 2009, but twice has challenged for a record-tying fourth Indy 500 win by finishing second two times over the last four seasons.

Castroneves has made five starts for Team Penske in sports car competition, including three podium finishes and a class victory in the 2008 Petit Le Mans event.

“I’ve been fortunate to achieve a lot of my personal goals with Team Penske over the years,” said Castroneves. “Helping Roger, the team and everyone with Acura start this program and build it from the ground up will be another big challenge and a great opportunity in my career. I am proud of everything we have accomplished together in INDYCAR and now I am focused on helping to develop the ARX-05 to try and win the 24 Hours of Daytona and the IMSA championship in 2018 with Acura."