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The Ball is Rolling on Helio Castroneves' NASCAR Debut

The Daytona 500 is the goal for the four-time Indy 500 winner.


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Hélio Castroneves has a deal with Donald Hawk and the Superstar Racing Experience CEO immediately went to work to deliver.

In winning the season two opener last Saturday night at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, Castroneves fulfilled his part of a bargain that would net him a long-desired NASCAR Cup Series start. To retain the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner for the IROC on Short Tracks Series, Hawk promised to broker a Daytona 500 ride for the future Hall of Famer.

After Saturday night, Hawk set the figurative wheels in motion.

"I actually took a little time off to be with my family Sunday," Hawk said during a Thursday media conference. "I did all I could do in the shop with SRX on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but my side job was representing Mr. Castroneves.

"Phone calls have been taking place. The ball is rolling and when he gets up here (this weekend), he’ll know a little more. But we’re not ready to say a whole lot publicly."

Castroneves has wanted to race in NASCAR for well over a decade but was denied on multiple occasions by then boss, Roger Penske, who wanted his star driver to focus on winning IndyCar races and then an IMSA championship. Penske famously hasn’t permitted his drivers to participate in extracurricular racing activities.

Castroneves said he asked Penske on three different occasions and said he viewed the third denial as a strikeout.

"I drove for so many years with Roger Penske and I was not able to get a (NASCAR) opportunity there and once now I had an opportunity in my contract, then why not? Why not try things that I never did," Castroneves said.

"So, now I’m trying SRX, IMSA, IndyCar and it would be very natural to try something that I’ve always (wanted), which was NASCAR, so I know it will be great. I know it will be tough but, hey, who knows? You never know what to expect and I don’t know because I haven't drove one. But I want to do the Daytona 500 for sure."

Now in his second season driving for Meyer Shank Racing, Castroneves is free to pursue his NASCAR dreams and would settle for any crown jewel if the Daytona 500 can’t happen for whatever reason.

Castroneves also says he would feel comfortable jumping into a Cup car for the Daytona 500 without a prior start or racing in a lower division first.

"I would have no issues in the Daytona 500," Castroneves said. "I'll learn in practice. I'll learn with my teammates if I had any. If not, I'll do everything I did to learn in my first Indy 500 so I don't think this would be a problem, either."

Hawk says the program is still being put together and those details are to be decided.

"It all depends on how this all rolls out as to whether we’re going to look at more than one (NASCAR) race or optional races," Hawk said. "The intention originally was he really wanted to run the Daytona 500 and if not, a crown jewel.

"But we’re really going to try to make the Daytona 500 work."