Can five be far off for Helio?
INDIANAPOLIS -- Two months ago, Helio Castroneves was wondering if he would ever race again. Now some people are wondering if he can become the only man to win five Indy 500s.
Castroneves earned his third Indy victory Sunday, an emotional win five weeks after his acquittal on tax evasion charges.
He's still one victory shy of equaling the Brickyard legends. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears each won four Indy 500s.
Castroneves is 34. Unser turned 39 two days after winning his third Indy 500. He was five days shy of 48 when he won for the fourth time in 1987.
Mears was 36 when he earned No. 3 at Indy and 39 when the fourth victory came in 1991.
Among the four-time winners, only Foyt earned his third Indy 500 victory at a younger age than Castroneves, winning No. 3 in 1967 when he was 32. But that was Foyt's 20th start at Indy, and he waited 10 more years for the fourth win in 1977. He was winless in his last 15 starts at Indy.
Mears made only one more start after his fourth win. Unser came closest to a fifth victory. He had five chances to get a fifth win, finishing third in two of those races.
Castroneves was making his ninth Indy start on Sunday. He's in the prime of his career, racing for the best team in the sport at Penske Racing.
Five Indy victories is a reasonable goal for a man who could race for many years to come. Even if he calls it quits at 40, he would have six attempts to earn two more victories on the giant rectangle.
"I will think about it and dream about it," Castroneves said. "But we have to work for it. Certainly we have the team to do it."
Castroneves now is one of six drivers with three Indy 500 victories, joining Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser.
A couple of those guys probably thought they could get four or five, also. Rutherford raced in seven more Indy 500s after his third win. Bobby Unser retired after his third win in 1981.
Shaw raced only once more at Indy after his third win in 1940. Rose had three more starts after winning No. 3 in 1948. Meyer's last win was 1936, racing in three more Indy 500s before retiring.
Castroneves is the first driver in 21 years to earn a third win at Indy. Mears was the last to do it in 1988.
"I feel honored to be in this category of drivers," Castroneves said after the race. "Such incredible names. But without the team and without good people surrounding you, you cannot do it."
Castroneves is racing for legendary Roger Penske, a team owner that has won an unprecedented 15 Indy 500s. Penske drivers have won four of the last nine Indy 500s since his team returned to the Brickyard after a five-year absence during the open-wheel split.
Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Racing, doesn't rule out five Indy wins for Castroneves.
"It hadn't crossed my mind much since 2003 when [Castroneves] had a chance to win three in a row," Cindric said. "But it's kind of cool to sit up here and think he has a chance to [win five]. As a kid growing up here, I remember how cool it was waiting for A.J. to win his fourth and all the hype about that."
When Castroneves learned the final charge against him (a conspiracy accusation) was dropped on Friday, he said, "That's the last chapter in my book."
Now he's not so sure.
"If we keep doing what we're doing, it's going to be a big book," he said. "I said [Friday] that was the last one, but really, I think it's just the beginning."
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at email@example.com.
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93RD INDIANAPOLIS 500
It's May, but one more special than usual. The Centennial Era has begun at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the first major event of a three-year-long celebration is the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Recap
Coverage• Surround: 93rd Indianapolis 500
• Blount: Can five be far off for Helio?
• Blount: Helio a winner again
• Oreovicz: More Indy heartache
• Blount: Calmer, cooler Danica prevails
• Oreovicz: No shame for Wheldon
• Race day blog
• Meira breaks 2 vertebra in late crash
• Blount: Something special brewing
• Blount: Passion still fuels Penske
• Oreovicz: What are the odds?
• Kozak: A one-track drama
• Hinton: Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!
• Schwarb: Helio smiling again
• Oreovicz: Danica 5.0, new and improved
• Oreovicz: Bump Day thrill ride
• Schwarb: John Andretti in, but spent
• Oreovicz blog: Long third day with late payoff
• Blount: Dario back where he belongs
• Schwarb: Wheldon slow out of the gate
• Oreovicz: Sharp races in under the gun
• Oreovicz: Helio out front on ho-hum day
• Schwarb: A very good year for Helio
• Oreovicz: Let's get rolling
• Hinton: Bringing it "home" in Indiana
• Petty returns to Indy as owner
• Surround Flashback: Dixon wins in 2008
Practice And Qualifying• Andretti, Hunter-Reay OK on Bump Day
• Doornbos tops third-round qualifying
• Matos makes field as other rookies crash
• Castroneves blitzes to pole
• Doornbos again finds wall in practice
• Doornbos wrecks in practice
• Hunter-Reay crashes; Andretti fastest
• Three get on track before rain hits
• Doornbos leads Indy 500 rookies in test
• Rarely used vets to join rookies at Indy
Indy 500 Video• Banner day for Castroneves
• King For A Day: Petty arrives at Indy
• Indy At 100: Roger Penske
• Castroneves happy to be back
• The Allure Of Indy
• Indy at 100: Helio's first win
• Indy at 100: Danica Patrick
• Ready For Indy? The King prepares
• Indy at 100: Foyt's fourth
• Indy at 100: Juan Pablo Montoya
• Leave It To Cheever: ... and another thing
• Leave It To Cheever: Loose bricks
• Indy At 100: Rick Mears
• Castroneves wins pole for Indy 500
• See more Indy 500 video