Helio Castroneves chalks one up for the older folks

Episode 363

May 30, 2021

Year of the veteran? 

Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing Honda, wins his fourth Indy 500 at 46 years of age. (Honda Racing photo)

I just viewed the fastest Indy 500 in history with only two yellow flags. The first was for Stefan Wilson’s spin on pit road. The second flew after a turn two spin by Graham Rahal when a loose rear wheel flew off. The speed record is not what had me excited, rather, it was win number four by Helio Castroneves. He joins AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears as four-time winners in what could be arguably the most prestigious race in the world.

Castroneves is now the fourth oldest winner of the 500. The most elder were Al Unser Sr. 47 (1987), Bobby Unser 47 (1981), and Emerson Fittipaldi 46 (1983).

The last four-time winner was Rick Mears thirty years ago driving for Roger Penske. Castroneves third win was eleven years ago when he also was driving for Penske Racing.

After the race, Castroneves gave one of the most jubilant post-race celebrations ever. He did his “Spider Man” climb of the start/finish line fence, twice, He was congratulated by many as he jogged the front stretch waving to the fans who were shouting, “Helio! Helio! Helio!”

When the track officials finally herded Castroneves to the elevated Victory Circle, he was congratulated by his old boss and now owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Roger Penske. Then it was the victory laurel wreath and the drink of strawberry milk and one of the most enthusiastic celebrations I can recall. I do not think many of the 135,000 fans left for some time after the race.

Simon Pagenaud who finished third said this about his good friend Castroneves, “At the end I was pedal to the metal. I didn’t care. Just wanted to get to these guys and have some fun with them. I could see Helio was playing a very smart game. Obviously, he knows how to win the race. Alex (Palou) was trying his best to hold him off. Helio was just biding his time.”

“Because of that, the draft was difficult in fourth place. It was difficult to get through Pato ( O’Ward). We did on the last lap. I thought I may have had a shot in turn four, but Helio was too fast.”
“Congrats to him. He’s writing a huge page of the 500-mile history here. Finally, a guy of our generation is going in the ‘four’ club. That’s very special. He’s a great friend. He just gave me 10 more years in my career to go catch him.”
Castroneves joins other veterans
Is 2021 the year when the elders win some of sports major events? Castroneves joins these four:
1) February 7, 2021 Tom Brady wins his seventh Super Bowl age 43
2) March 20, 2021 CORE Autosports owner/driver Jon Bennett, age 55 wins IMSA12 Hours of Sebring in LMP3.
3) May 22, 2021 gymnast Simone Biles at age 24, old by lady gymnast standards, lands the Yurchenko double pike vault at US Classic at Indianapolis.
4) May 23, 2021 Phil Mickelson became the oldest golfer, at age 50 years and 11 months, to win a major when he won the lucrative PGA Championship in South Carolina.
Castroneves described the race saying, “It’s not the end; it’s the beginning. I don’t know if it’s a good comparison, but Tom Brady won a Super Bowl, Phil (Mickelson) won the PGA, and now here you go. The old guys still got it, kicking the young guys’ butts. We’re teaching them a lesson.”


“What a great team effort. Everyone was in sync. We didn’t make any mistakes. Number four – what a moment. I’m just so honored to be a part of this amazing group with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears. This is absolutely a dream come true.”

Castroneves, who started eighth, finished a stirring duel with 24-year-old Spaniard Alex Palou over the closing laps by passing Palou with a daring outside move in Turn 1 on Lap 199. He held off Palou’s No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to win by .4928 of a second.

Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing Honda wins the Indianapolis 500 by a margin of .4928 seconds over Alex Palou (Honda Racing photo)

Swanson wins two of three over weekend

Readers of UpNorth Motorsports recognize that with hundreds of drivers along with a multitude of race tracks, I am unable to feature most of them in an episode. For several years I have been following Kingsburg, California’s Kody Swanson who I met when he was an unknown in the racing world.

He continues to amaze me with his prowess in a race car. This past weekend strengthened that feeling when Swanson took two out of three major wins in what was supposed to be two days, Day one was the Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway, Brownsburg, Indiana Friday May 28.

Swanson was to debut in the USAC Silver Crown Series opener with the Doran Racing Team. Doran had never fielded a Silver Crown car before. Rain forced the race to be held Saturday morning at 10 am.

Swanson was also scheduled to drive the Jerome Rodella USAC Midget after the Silver Crown race. Like the Silver Crown race, the midget event was bumped to early Saturday afternoon.

The rain presented somewhat of a dilemma for Swanson since he was on the pole at the Little 500 later on Saturday at Anderson Speedway approximately 57 miles away a little over an hour’s drive. Swanson was able to make the trip, arriving just as the mandatory driver’s meeting was commencing.


Kody Swanson makes his USAC Silver Crown racing debut with new team, Doran Racing, Doran Enterprises/Glenn Farms – Lykins Energy Solutions/Beast/Lanci Ford. Astute race fans will recognize Dan Binks on far right behind the car. Binks was the crew chief on the very successful IMSA Corvette factory team for 10 years. (Jordan Swanson photo)

Swanson’s brother, Tanner, set fastest time in qualifying Friday. However, later in practice he smacked the turn one wall and tweaked his right front suspension. Had the race not been postponed he would have been unable to start.

The Saturday morning start allowed the team to repair the Bowman Racing car. During a short practice period the team discovered a problem which by the time they had repaired the culprit the race was four laps in the books. Swanson later ended up in the turn 3/4 wall when he came together with rookie Jake Day.

Kody Swanson dueled with Bobby Santos III until lap 63 when Kody took the lead for good. Finishing in the top five were Bobby Santos, David Byrne, Justin Grant and Taylor Ferns, who was making her first USAC Silver Crown race.

“We have a great race team here,” Swanson said.  “It’s our first time with Doran Racing in the Silver Crown series and they worked their tails off to make this thing better every time.  They didn’t give up.”

“Early on (in the morning’s warm-up session), I didn’t think I had the car to keep up with (Santos) for a hundred laps.  I just had to hope that maybe we had a chance at the end.  Luckily, with traffic and the track changing some, maybe it came to us a little bit and gave us a chance.  I’m so grateful for everyone that’s part of this team, everyone that supports it and my wife Jordan from the spotter’s stand.”

Kody Swanson dominated the Carb Classic USAC Midget race at Lucas Oil Raceway leading flag-to-flag from the pole position. He drove for Jerome Rodela/Rodela Fabrication – Trench Shoring Company/Gerhardt/Ed Pink Toyota. (Rich Forman photo)

With Swanson’s race win in the midget race, he became the first person to win both races on Carb Day at Lucas Oil Raceway since Dave Steele won both Midget races in 2002. Swanson was the first to win both races in two different classes of cars, however.

He was followed home by Thomas Meseraull, Bobby Santos, younger brother Tanner Swanson and Justin Grant.

“I can’t say enough about (this team),” Swanson exclaimed.  “Everyone puts in a ton of effort, and this has got to be the nicest midget there ever was, and it deserves to win races.  Jerome (Rodela) has done nothing but be ahead of the game on his end.  I’m thankful that he let me be a part of this.”

Meanwhile at Little 500

Five hundred laps around a high banked 1/4-mile Anderson Speedway, Anderson, Indiana on the night before the Indy 500 has made the Payless Little 500 one of the most prestigious races in the sprint car world. The 33 starters make for a crowded field where lapping often begins in less than a handful of laps.

Kody Swanson was hoping to sweep the day when he arrived at the track fresh off the two wins at Lucas Oil Raceway earlier in the day. His pole position start was a good sign.

Tyler Roahrig, Plymouth Indiana had something to say about that possibility. In his sixth start of the Little 500, Roahrig who started from the middle of row one, dominated the second half of the race leading 254 of the final 260 laps.

Near the end of the race, the only cars on the lead lap were Roahrig, Kody Swanson, and Tanner Swanson. A couple late race cautions proved to be no problem for Roahrig when he pulled away from Kody (2.066 seconds) and his brother Tanner (12.783 seconds) at the checkered flag.

Podium finishers for the 73rd Payless Little 500 at Anderson Speedway. Left to right second place Kody Swanson, first place Tyler Roahrig, and third place Tanner Swanson. This was Roahrig’s first win in six starts. He was third in 2020. (Jordan Swanson photo)

“Last night we finally won our first Pay Less Little 500 Presented by UAW at Anderson Speedway,” said race winner Roahrig. ” As always it was a total team effort, I am just the one who is lucky enough to sit behind the wheel. To no surprise, my pit crew and spotter were flawless all night, we were the first one out of the pits on both stops, which sure made my job easier.”

Kody Swanson’s race weekend ended with these remarks, “Our Week of Indy turned into the Day of Indy, and we ended up just one spot short. We had 2 incredible teams, 3 great racecars, and after 630 feature laps we came home with 2 Wins and 1 Second.”

“I am grateful for & humbled by all of the support and kind words we received! God is good!”

Tanner Swanson finishes in third at 73rd Pay Less Little 500 driving for Nolen Racing. Earlier in the day he placed fourth in the Midget race at Lucas Oil Raceway. Swanson is pictured here with son Levi on left and daughter Beckett with Tanner’s wife Allison. (Allison Swanson photo)

Must watch! Little 500 pit stop with Kody Swanson

For folks watching Indy and NASCAR pit stops, this Little 500 pit stop is very interesting. Thank you to Linda Mansfield, Restart Communications!


Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)



Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine