Castroneves and Johnson hit rarified air at Indy Before the 2009 racing season even began, their on-track performances had already cemented their status among the best race drivers of all time. But Helio Castroneves' and Jimmie Johnson's performances at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2009 took their careers to a new level . and set the stage for a potentially unforgettable 2010.
Of the 726 drivers who have competed in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race since the inaugural running in 1911, only nine have won "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" three or more times. Castroneves joined that group - containing names such as Unser, Shaw, Rutherford, Mears and Foyt - on May 24 when he beat 2005 "500" winner Dan Wheldon to the finish line by 1.9 seconds.
Castroneves won the race for the first time in 2001 - one of only eight drivers to win in his rookie year - and joined yet another elite club by repeating in 2002. Only five drivers have won the "500" in consecutive years.
"It's the No. 3's this year for the guys that had the opportunity," said Castroneves. "Jimmie's a good friend of mine and I was happy he ended up winning the Brickyard. Indianapolis is a very tough place. Hearing the NASCAR guys talking about IndyCar, it's a nice touch. Everybody really respects that place (IMS), admires it, because not only it's history but it's challenge as well. I feel honored to be in such an elite, incredible group and I'm sure Jimmie feels the same way."
Johnson, his crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet team have "owned" the Brickyard 400 of late, having won at the daunting 2.5-mile IMS oval three times in four years. He became the first driver in the 16-year history of the Brickyard 400 to win in consecutive years with his impressive win over a hard-charging Mark Martin on July 26.
"I dreamed about racing at Indianapolis as a kid and now to be a part of its history is incredible. It took me a little while to figure out the track and finally something just clicked. We've worked really hard as a team to run well and I give a lot of credit to Chad and the guys for all of their work. It definitely takes everyone working together to be able win at the Brickyard three times."
It's not a coincidence, given Johnson's domination of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as a whole; he is aiming for an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship in 2009.
Should Castroneves win the 2010 Indianapolis 500, he would not only join the list of four-time winners with Foyt, Mears and Al Unser, but he would become the only driver in "500" history to win in consecutive years more than once.
Should Johnson continue his winning ways, he will join teammate Gordon as a four-time winner at Indy, the only stock car driver to do so.
2010 Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 tickets are on sale now at www.imstix.com, and an added incentive is available right now for existing Brickyard 400 customers to renew online by Monday, Aug. 10. Renew online, and customers have their choice of a limited edition six-pack cooler featuring Sprint Cup stars Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Kasey Kahne, or the IMS Centennial Era.
Tickets are also available by calling (800) 822-INDY or visiting the IMS Ticket Office on the first floor of the IMS Administration Building.