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Helio Castroneves Ties Record As Four-Time Indy 500 Winner

Helio Castroneves won his fourth Indianapolis 500 race Sunday, becoming the fourth racer in history to do so.
Michael Conroy
Helio Castroneves won his fourth Indianapolis 500 race Sunday, becoming the fourth racer in history to do so.

Brazilian auto racer Helio Castroneves made history after winning his fourth Indianapolis 500 race on Sunday. He is now one of four drivers to win "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" four times.

Castroneves, who took the checkered flag in 2001, 2002 and 2009, held off runner-up racer Alex Palou, winning by a mere .4928 of a second. Castroneves claimed his first three wins with Team Penske, but Sunday's win was the first Indy 500 win for Meyer Shank Racing.

In a traditionthat dates back to 1936, Castroneves slugged back some milk while draped in a laurel of flowers in Victory Lane after the race.

Castroneves joined A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977), Al Unser (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987) and Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991) in the elite club of four-time Indy 500 winners. At 46 years old, Castroneves also became the fourth-oldest driver to win the Indy 500.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway welcomed a crowd of 135,000 people — 40% capacity — to the race. The 105th Indy 500 became the world's largest gathering in sports since the coronavirus shut down practically all events worldwide last spring, an IndyCar Series news release said.

Thirty three cars competed in the race, with an average speed of 190.69 miles per hour, making the 2021 race the fastest in its 105-year history. Castroneves was in starting position eight, two spots behind 24-year-old Palou. The favorite going into the race was Scott Dixon with Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon placed second last year and started this year's race in the number one spot, IndyCar said.

After an early career racing go-karts, Castroneves eventually advanced to car racing, competing the British Formula Three before moving to American open-wheel racing in 1996. In 2000, Roger Penske scooped the talented racer and one year later Castroneveswon his first Indy 500.

The São Paulo native won his second Indy 500 the following year, becoming the fifth driver in history to win the race back-to-back. He claimed his third Indy 500 crown in 2009.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.