SPEEDWAY – Even a person of his stature in the place where he was standing found himself a bit intimidated by those around him on Wednesday afternoon.
On one side was Rick Mears, the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion. On the other stood Johnny Rutherford, who won three titles in the race himself.
Standing in the middle, Helio Castroneves knew the pressure of the position he was standing in on Wednesday afternoon.
“C’mon,” said the driver of getting his picture next to the pair of legends. “This is me right here with those guys.”
The results would put him right on their level since Castroneves has three Indianapolis 500 wins himself in 2001, 2002 and 2009. But Wednesday had a little more to do with something different yet perhaps just as important when it comes to recognition of the 98th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
The driver was officially announced as the next in line to drive the all-yellow Pennzoil sponsored machine for the 500. Dubbed the “Yellow Submarine” by fans, Castroneves joins Mears and Rutherford to don the unique color for the Month of May.
“It’s an incredible honor,” said Castroneves, who will undoubtedly face some incredible pressure based on what those in the team have done with the car.
Rutherford drove the car first in 1979 and then won the race a year later–the third and final of his career. Many remember that win because a courteous Rutherford picked up Tim Richmond and drove him back to the pits after his car ran out of gas on the last lap.
Mears continued the tradition by winning with the car in both 1984 and 1988–the second and third Indianapolis 500 wins in his storied career. He’s pleased that Castroneves will carry on the tradition for the 2014 running of the race.
“Hopefully he can make that grow even more, that’s what we’re over here to try and do,” said Mears of Castroneves carrying on the Penske legacy of success at Indianapolis.
Rutherford echoed similar sentiments and is happy that the yellow machine will make its return to the track.
“It’s great to see the trend and the icon that Pennzoil has manifest itself at the Indianapolis 500 and I think it’s good, beautiful race cars. The fans love them. Of course the fact that Helio could become another four-time winner really kinda makes me mad,” said Rutherford jokingly. “He’s worked hard and he deserves it and it will be interesting to see what happens.”
At least Castroneves will be impressed with his company during the Month of May. He won’t be hard to find either.