Castroneves knew whereof he spoke. Come race day, he ran near the front from the start. During the last 200 miles, the race came down to a mano-a-mano duel between Castroneves and Álex Palou, the young, unflappable Spaniard who would go on to win the 2021 IndyCar title.
“He was about two miles per hour quicker than I was, but my car was very good in traffic, so I was confident that I could pass him whenever I wanted,” Castroneves recalls. “My original goal was to pass him on the last lap. But when I noticed there was traffic ahead, I said, ‘This is an opportunity I cannot miss.’”
At the start of Lap 199, Castroneves swept majestically past Palou around the outside of Turn 1. Once in the lead, he caught enough of a draft from Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving the last car on the lead lap, to keep Palou at bay. Castroneves won his fourth Indy 500 by a mere 0.4928 seconds, joining A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in the select fraternity of four-time winners.
“I was just totally stunned,” Shank admits. “I couldn’t comprehend what just happened. I got lost in the time-warp continuum. People kept shaking me and yelling, ‘We won! We won!’ and I didn’t know what to do. By the way, I’m finding out that, A, it’s a really big damn deal to win the Indy 500, and, B, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Two months later, buoyed by the win at Indy, Shank was able to put together a fully funded program to allow Castroneves to do the entire 2022 season. By that time, Castroneves will be 47, or roughly twice Palou’s age, and other than Indy, he hasn’t won an open-wheel race since 2017. So he recognises that there are challenges ahead.