We are approaching the end of a great time in the history of the Indianapolis 500 and the NTT Indycar Series. Word today from Team Penske that Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will drive in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis in May means Helio Castroneves will drive only in the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. My feeling is this will be his last 500.
Earlier this month, Tony Kanaan announced 2020 will be his final year in Indycar as he runs only the ovals in the series. I could see him coming back for the Indianapolis 500, but I’m not sure for how long. I think Kanaan may have a tough time getting funding for future rides.
The 104th Indianapolis 500 may be the last one for awhile with a driver from Brazil in it. Since Emerson Fittipaldi’s rookie year in 1984, I count 19 Brazilian drivers who have run in the race. I m ay be leaving a couple out.The early 2000s were the peak of the South American country’ s participation. In 2003, Brazil finished first, second, and third. Gil DeFerran won, followed by Castroneves and Kanaan Four Brazilian drivers have compiled seven victories at Indianapolis. Castroneves has three and Fittipaldi has two. DeFerran and Kanaan each won once.
The high mark was in 2010 when seven Brazilian drivers started. Six starters were in the 2002 race .From 2003-2008, there were four drivers from Brazil in each race. Last year the contingent was just Castroneves, Kanaan, and Matheus Leist.
Among the other drivers from Brazil, I liked Raul Boesel, who I thought had a great chance at winning in 1993; Ana Beatriz, Vitor Meira, and Bruno Junqueira. Meira never won a race in his Indycar career, but came close several times. Junqueira has qualified several cars only to be displaced on race day.
The pendulum seems to be swinging back toward American drivers now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Trends of certain nationalities dominating the Indycar paddock are cyclical. It just doesn’t seem as if the Brazilian pipeline has many drivers in it right now.
It would be fitting if 2020 were the last 500 for both Kanaan and Castroneves. They grew up racing against each other. I think seeing them retire from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing together, while sad to mark the end of an era, would be nice.