Helio Castroneves adjusts his half of the bed. He likes the mattress angled just enough to forgo a bunch of head-propping pillows when he retreats to his American Coach after a day on the race track.
Castroneves is still familiarizing himself with his new American Eagle 45T, a one-of-a-kind motor coach that REV Recreation Group unveiled to the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion in March of 2015 as part of REV’s multi-year partnership with Team Penske.
“I’m still learning how to be an RV user, but it took me no time to figure out the bed’s massage feature,” Helio laughs during an exclusive interview with REV Group. “When I flipped the switch, I was in heaven, and I don’t have to put a lot of pillows behind my head anymore when I sleep. You would think my neck would be stronger, but I’ve had enough incidents in my life that it hurts every now and then.”
As would any neck subjected to Castroneves’ line of work — defying speed on a regular basis.
Castroneves, who is buckling up for his 18th season of IndyCar racing (17 for Team Penske), became the first driver to claim back-to-back Indy 500 wins in his first two starts, followed by a third in 2009, making his record the most active driver victories during the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” However, those trophies haven’t come without a few “incidents,” like last year when Castroneves’ car flipped during an Indy 500 practice, the result of a new Chevrolet speedway aero kit that was used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time.
“We’re in a very dangerous sport,” says Castroneves, who has never shied from a race, even after his YouTube captured flip. He was quickly returned to the Indy 500 track, his crew salvaging the engine in a back-up car. “My team did a phenomenal job. They turned things around in three hours. Like a computer, you hit the delete button and move on.”
Still, it comes as no surprise that his sister-slash-manager sprinkles holy water on his car before every race, which includes the upcoming April 2 Phoenix Grand Prix, where the G-force is so wicked even the steering wheel feels heavy, particularly on Turn 1 where Castroneves says the track appears to be tight and steep but eventually opens up.
REV Group is the main sponsor of Castroneves’ No. 3 Chevrolet during the VERIZON IndyCar Series race, a much-anticipated competition under the lights of Phoenix International Raceway. The race marks the first time since 2005 that IndyCar has raced at this fast track.
Did we mention, an IndyCar can lap the Phoenix 1-mile oval track in 20 seconds? Now, that’s pretty wicked.
That said, if Castroneves races anything like he did during the two-day Phoenix track test back in February, REV Group just might see its logo in Victory Lane. During that test, open to the IndyCar field, Castroneves unofficially broke the track record, lapping the oval in 19.5858 seconds with an average speed of 187.850 mph. Unfortunately, official IndyCar track records can only be set during a qualifying or race session, meaning Arie Luyendyk still holds the 1996 record of 19.608 seconds (183.599 mph).
“We managed to stay on top of the list, and that’s our goal on Saturday,” Castroneves says. “Hopefully, we’ll get to celebrate the victory with our new partner — REV!”
However, don’t mind Castroneves if he decides to climb a fence or two after the race. You see, Castroneves — not Tony Stewart — was the man behind the now-popular fence climb. The Brazilian driver was the first to climb a fence in the racing industry — all out of sheer excitement following his first CART victory at the 2000 Detroit Grand Prix. “The crowd went crazy,” Castroneves remembers. After that, ESPN’s John Kernan began calling Castroneves “Spider-Man.”
But don’t let the Spider-Name fool you. Little does anyone know, the name Helio comes from a Greek god who so happened to pull the sun across the sky with nothing but a chariot. Greek god … super hero … it’s all relative.
“Some of my littlest fans started dressing up in Spider-Man costumes,” Castroneves laughs. “It’s a cool nickname, and I’m definitely hoping for super hero powers against my competitors this year.”
Us, too. After all, who doesn’t like rooting for a guy whose super hero dreams began at the age of 11 racing go-carts. Here at REV, we can relate to that same love … the roar of an engine … the sight of an open road … it gets to us, too.