Castroneves arrives in Long Beach UPDATE #2 Helio Castroneves entered the IndyCar Series paddock around 7:40 a.m. PT this morning, and was immediately greeted by handshakes and hugs from well-wishers. That smile was back.
"Hey guys, I'm home," declared Castroneves to crew members, as he entered the Penske garage.
|Helio Castroneves, with tears in his eyes, greets the media in Long Beach|
"It's great to be back, I'll tell you," Castroneves said.
Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who battled Castroneves throughout the season for the title, said "it's a pleasure to have him back."
"I think it's definitely a nice surprise for everybody," Dixon said.
"It's been a very interesting situation and a mix of feelings, obviously," an emotional Castroneves said during a news conference preceding qualifications. "It feels like I just woke up from a nightmare. But my family, not only the family but the fans, they were amazing. So many people sent messages. So many people sent prayers through Facebook, through the Internet, through my Web site.
"I never lost faith. Sometimes I questioned it a little bit, but those prayers that people were sending me, it kept me really strong. It kept me really focused. And without everybody, without those prayers, it would have been very difficult to go through what I did. So now, it's turn the page."
"I think we won one of the biggest races that we've ever had to get Helio back in this car," team owner Roger Penske said. "We've stayed together as a team for many months. And we talked about this when it started and obviously stayed in contact as he went through the ordeal.
|Roger Penske (L) with his driver Helio Castroneves|
"I'm proud to see him be able to walk out and be able to get in the No. 3 car. It's amazing what happens in your life, and certainly Helio has gone through a chapter I'm sure he wants to close. To me it's over. He's back where he wants to be."04/18/09 Helio Castroneves will be a featured interview on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on Sunday night, April 19. Fans can email Helio questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wind Tunnel is aired Sunday at 9:00 pm - 10:00 pm ET live on SPEED.
Full Transcript of Penske Press Conference Mark C. reporting from Long Beach
Another beautiful day here in Long Beach under a typical sunny California sky. And no one could be happier to feel those warm rays than Helio Castroneves, who arrived in the IndyCar paddock this morning to many smiles and hugs.
|Helio Castroneves is all smiles in the Long Beach paddock Saturday morning|
ALMS warm-ups are over and the Indy Light cars have taken to the track. Early atop the timesheet is American sensation Jonathan Bomarito who has stepped into an Indy Lights car for the first time from Atlantics and is immediately making his presence felt.
|Helio Castroneves gets hugs from the team|
So talented are the Atlantic drivers that Junior Strous came over from Atlantics and right out of the box won the first two races of the season. Too bad IndyCar did not pick up that series and make it one step below Lights. They really missed the boat on that one. Mark C. reporting from Long Beach